Eddie Rosario, the mystery man who bolstered the Braves

Atlanta Braves' Eddie Rosario reacts after hitting an RBI-single against the San Diego Padres in the ninth inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Derrick Tuskan)

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Atlanta Braves' Eddie Rosario reacts after hitting an RBI-single against the San Diego Padres in the ninth inning of a baseball game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Derrick Tuskan)

Credit: AP

Left fielder Eddie Rosario was an overlooked name during the Braves’ flurry of moves July 30.

The team acquired him for a fading Pablo Sandoval in what amounted to a salary dump for the small-market Indians. Making the trade even less noteworthy was Rosario’s abdominal injury, which meant he was weeks away from playing. The Braves sold the trade essentially as “additional depth.”

Further muting any conversation around Rosario was his Triple-A production. He hit .196/.226/.471 with Gwinnett, though he finished on a 9-for-31 run before rejoining the club. There were no expectations as to what he could provide. The other acquisitions already were showing their worth, and getting anything out of Rosario would’ve been a bonus.

It turns out, in a series of brilliant moves by general manager Alex Anthopoulos, none might have provided more bang-for-buck value than Rosario, considering he was added at no cost outside a pinch of payroll flexibility.

Rosario entered Thursday hitting .272/.341/.580 with three doubles, two triples, six homers and 14 RBIs over 29 games. That’s an uptick from his numbers in Cleveland, where hit .254 with 15 doubles, seven homers and 46 RBIs across 78 games before his injury.

“He’s been huge for us,” said outfielder Adam Duvall, another deadline acquisition who’s helped make the Braves a postseason contender.

Rosario, 29, has made 25 starts in left field since he was activated from the injured list Aug. 27. He’s been more important for the reimagined Braves outfield than expected. Less than a full season removed from a 32-homer campaign, Rosario has looked every bit as potent as he did in 2019. He’s another reason why the Braves’ lineup is laden with pop.

And he’s been clutch: He became the eighth player in Braves history to hit for the cycle during his team’s series finale in San Francisco, helping the Braves avoid a sweep. It was the fourth contest of a hot five-game stretch in which Rosario hit .556 (10-for-18) with five extra-base hits, including three homers, and four RBIs.

“I’m really happy for him,” starter Max Fried said after Rosario’s cycle. “His first cycle in a big spot. We really needed that. It’s really cool. Getting multiple hits is hard, let alone four and one of each.”

Later in the western trip, Rosario produced the game-tying bloop hit in the ninth inning of Saturday’s wild win over the Padres, which might be looked back upon as the most thrilling victory of the season.

“I think he’s one of the best hitters out there,” said Jorge Soler, who saw Rosario plenty when both played in the American League Central. “I feel like any time you see him with a runner in scoring position, I have 100% certainty that he was going to drive him in. That was truly an amazing at-bat (Saturday) against one of the best closers in the league (Mark Melancon). I can’t say enough about him.”

In the Braves’ most important win to date, Rosario had an RBI double in their 7-2 win over the Phillies on Wednesday, which put them on the doorstep of earning their fourth consecutive division crown. The Braves wouldn’t be here without Rosario and the other July newcomers.

Anthopoulos’ trade deadline will be discussed as a notable point in recent Braves history. Rather than wave the white flag, he swung six trades that altered his team’s fortunes in the uninspiring National League East.

Rosario, who seemed nothing more than a cheap flier at the time, has proved valuable beyond any expectation. He’s been a vital role player in the Braves’ pennant chase. He’s also bolstered his own value as he prepares to re-enter the free-agent market this winter. Common sense says the Braves will be among the interest parties.

For now, everyone’s focus lies on the Braves officially securing their spot in the playoffs, which could be just hours away. If that happens, Rosario will have the chance to further better his 2021 resume with postseason production.