Acuna, Tatis haven’t shared field much in young careers

Atlanta Braves' Ronald Acuna Jr. swings for a home run off Miami Marlins' Zach Thompson during the third inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 4, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Caption
Atlanta Braves' Ronald Acuna Jr. swings for a home run off Miami Marlins' Zach Thompson during the third inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 4, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Credit: Ben Margot

Credit: Ben Margot

The Braves-Padres series isn’t nearly as exciting as it could’ve been. And that’s not just because of the gloomy weather shrouding metro Atlanta.

Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna and Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis might be the two most exhilarating players in MLB. They’re leading the charge as young, thrilling athletes who will define the next generation of baseball.

And while Tatis, 22, continues to make his mark on one of the sport’s best teams, Acuna’s MVP-level campaign was cut short. Acuna, 23, suffered a torn ACL in Miami two days before the All-Star break, ending his season.

Acuna was hitting .283/.394/.596 with 24 homers and 17 steals across 82 games before the injury. Tatis is hitting .291/.372/.649 with 28 homers and 22 steals in 77 games.

The Braves and Padres haven’t squared off much in the Acuna-Tatis era. As National League teams in different divisions, the opportunities are limited. But even in the few chances they would’ve come together, circumstances haven’t cooperated.

Acuna debuted in 2018, while Tatis arrived a season later. Tatis was injured just before the Padres came to Truist Park in late April 2019. The teams didn’t play in 2020 because of the reconfigured schedule during the pandemic-shortened season. Originally, the Braves were scheduled to play their second series of the 2020 season in San Diego.

The only time the two shared a field was in July 2019, when the Braves opened the second half in sunny San Diego. Acuna went 4-for-15 (.267) with two homers, two RBIs and a stolen base in the Braves’ three-game sweep. Tatis went 7-for-13 (.538) with two walks and a stolen base. It was Tatis’ only series against the Braves before this week.

In the past seven days, Acuna and Tatis were supposed to share the same field twice. Acuna would’ve joined Tatis in the starting lineup for the All-Star game in Denver last week if not for his injury. Now, the Braves’ latest meeting with the Padres, which started Tuesday, also won’t feature Acuna and Tatis. Nor will their next series in late September when the Braves finish their final road trip in America’s Finest City.

Tatis interacted plenty with the two Braves who were at the All-Star game. Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies told the AJC he was excited to finally meet Tatis in person, as the two were friends only through social media. They spent a lot of time on the field talking during the workouts before the game. Tatis also met Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman’s son, Charlie, in a heartwarming exchange that went viral.

But there were no highlights of Acuna and Tatis together. It’s unfortunate for the baseball world that Acuna and Tatis, perhaps the two most exciting players in the NL, have so rarely faced off or even shared a field during the All-Star game.

“When I see what Fernando is doing, that’s Ronald for us,” Freeman said last week during All-Star media day. “That’s the east coast and west coast. That’s almost the same player. They’re so dynamic. It’s amazing what they can do on the baseball field, what they do day in and day out. They might go 0-for-4, but they’re going to make fans go home and talk about them. That’s what they do. That’s what’s so special about them. People will remember coming to watch them play.

“It’s fun to watch. It’s not fun to play against because you know he’ll beat you at some point in that game. Luckily, we get to face (Tatis) right after the All-Star break. Maybe he’ll be tired or something and he won’t do well against us. I’m a baseball fan, and I love taking a step back and realizing what we’re getting to watch. You’re watching guys who are generational talents. We have a lot of them at the same time.

“No one is even talking about (Angels outfielder) Mike Trout right now, and that’s incredible to me. I think he’s the greatest player of this generation and could go down as one of the top five players of all-time if he keeps going. And nobody is talking about him. That’s how crazy these young guys are and how good they are.”

But fans will have to wait at least until 2022 to see the next Acuna and Tatis meeting.