Here are five observations:
1. All summer, Acuña appeared frustrated as he searched for the height of his potential. His knee soreness only complicated the situation.
But he is Ronald Acuña.
At his best, he is one of the game’s best.
“I don’t think there’s really any limit,” starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi said of the team’s ceiling when Acuña plays like he can. “You know what type of talent he can be. If he has a full, healthy season of what he does, he’s gonna be in the MVP conversation, it seems like, year in and year out.”
On Saturday, it looked as if Acuña was back. A couple other times this season, the outfielder has had stretches of a few good games. Could this be the one he sustains and turns into a hot streak?
Acuña followed Friday’s home run by hitting another in Saturday’s third inning before lining a two-run double in the fourth inning. He also made an incredible diving catch that saved multiple runs.
Atlanta won a World Series without Acuña last season. But the Braves, of course, are better when one of the sport’s top players is performing at an elite level.
Acuña could be getting there.
“I’ve felt good the whole time,” Acuña said through interpreter Franco García. “I think you want results to go your way and sometimes you don’t, so you just got to keep putting the work in.”
Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com
Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com
2. Acuña is one of the rare players in that his home runs look different. They jump off the bat and soar over the wall as if they are shot out of a cannon.
Facing Aaron Nola, Acuña blasted another one of these. This two-run homer, which opened the scoring, flew an estimated 427 feet and landed a considerable way up the stands in right-center field.
An inning later, Acuña doubled down the left-field line to score two more runs. This gave the Braves a four-run lead. Acuña might be turning the corner for good.
“Things are going back to normal, and I hope to keep feeling good,” he said.
The Braves – well, Acuña – scored four runs off Nola over seven innings. In two of his other starts against Atlanta this season, Nola allowed five and four earned runs.
3. Albies had been back for a little over 24 hours when he fractured his right pinkie. It occurred on a head-first slide into second base after Albies tagged up from first on a flyout in the bottom of the fourth inning.
This was a cruel twist for a player who has had a rough year.
“I hate it for him,” manager Brian Snitker said. “My heart breaks for him. After everything he went through, to get back here and then have that happen, God, it’s horrible for him. He was just having so much fun and being old (Ozzie), and he was playing ball, which is what he loves to do. It’s a shame, and I hate it for him.”
Albies spent three months recovering, then rehabbing, from a fractured foot. He finally returned on Friday, only for this to happen a day later.
Vaughn Grissom, who filled in for Albies, replaced him for the top of the fifth on Saturday. (Albies stayed in the game after fracturing his finger, and even scored).
4. One of the game’s most critical moments came in the fifth inning, when the Phillies loaded the bases for Bryce Harper. The Braves led by three runs as Dylan Lee, who replaced Odorizzi, looked for the final out.
Harper hit a liner to right field that began sinking toward the grass. Acuña charged it and made a terrific diving catch to end the inning. Had he not made the play, at least two runs, and maybe three, would have scored.
“He’s a special talent – offensively, defensively, stealing bases,” Odorizzi said. “I know he got off to a late start with the knee, but I think he is playing right through all that, it’s not really holding him up at all.”
5. After a rough start in Seattle, Odorizzi bounced back.
The righty held the Phillies to a run over 4 2/3 innings. His line could have looked worse because there were a couple precarious situations, but with the help of his defense, he executed as best he could to keep Philadelphia off the board.
Stat to know
40 - Per Statcast, the ball Acuña dove and snagged in the fifth inning had a 40% chance of being caught, making it the most improbable catch the outfielder has made this season.
“Obviously it’s great that we got the win, that’s the most important thing. But it’s just really sad that Ozzie hurt himself again. We need him.” - Acuña on Saturday’s mix of emotions
On Sunday, Atlanta’s Spencer Strider will face Philadelphia lefty Bailey Falter in a game that starts at 1:35 p.m.