The team and player are fortunate that Acuna avoided time on the injury list. The 23-year-old is off to an MVP-level start. He’s hit .419/.486/.887 with seven homers, 16 RBIs and MLB-best 21 runs scored. He’s also 3-for-3 in stolen bases. Acuna has been the lone consistent producer in the Braves’ lineup through 16 games. Any extended absence would’ve been a huge blow in the season’s first month.
The Braves are already shorthanded, especially in the outfield, where centerfielders Cristian Pache (groin) and Ender Inciarte (hamstring) are on the injured list. Their absences forced veteran Guillermo Heredia into playing time, and he delivered Sunday with a two-homer, six-RBI performance.
Outfield isn’t the only area struck by the injury bug. The Braves are down three starters in Mike Soroka, Max Fried and Drew Smyly. Soroka, whose return from a torn Achilles was disrupted by shoulder inflammation, won’t be back this month. The Braves are hopeful Fried (hamstring) and Smyly (forearm) miss only one start.
Reliever Chris Martin is sidelined with shoulder inflammation and hasn’t resume throwing. Lefty Sean Newcomb is on the IL for an undisclosed reason and there’s no timetable for his return. Second baseman Ozzie Albies has missed the last two games with calf soreness. He avoided an IL stint, however, and is expected back Tuesday when the Braves face the Yankees.
The Braves’ schedule this week will work in their favor. They were off Monday and have another off day Thursday. They only have two games before Friday, when they open their second homestand of the season. They could rest Acuna during the Yankees series, at least, which would give him four days of rest. The Braves just finished a stretch of 10 consecutive games without an off day, and given their health issues, a pair of off days this week is welcomed.
Injuries and underperformances have resulted in a mediocre start for the Braves, who are 7-9 after taking two of three in Chicago this past weekend. Now, the Braves will see another struggling contender, the Yankees, who have lost five in a row and are 5-10.