Atlanta Braves Ronald Acuna Jr. hits a leadoff solo homer against the Miami Marlins for a 1-0 lead during the first inning in a MLB baseball game on Monday, August 13, 2018, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Acuna homers to lead off both games of Braves’ doubleheader sweep

Quick, get a thesaurus. They are starting to run out of superlatives.

Seriously.

What else can be said to describe the start of the career of Ronald Acuna?

The Braves rookie led off both games of a doubleheader against the Marlins with a home run on Monday. He homered off Pablo Lopez to lead off the Braves’ 9-1 win in Game 1. He homered off Merandy Gonzalez on the first pitch – a blast to centerfield that was a no-doubter as it traveled an estimated 441 feet – in a 6-1 victory in Game 2. Mike Foltynewicz pitched eight strong innings for the nightcap win.

The 20-year-old Acuna became the first player to hit a leadoff home run in both games of a doubleheader since 1999, when Brady Anderson did it for the Orioles against the White Sox, according to the Elias Sports. It was also done by Rickey Henderson in 1993 and Harry Hooper in 1913.

“I kind of went up there with the mentality of hopefully swinging at the first pitch,” said Acuna, who found out his place in history after the game. “I saw it in the location that I wanted it. Thankfully, I was able to connect and it was a home run.”

Acuna now has homered in four straight games, the youngest player in 110 seasons to do so, and in six of the past seven. Monday’s home runs were his 16th and 17th of the season. 

Remember that Acuna played in just his 66th game after he started the season at Triple-A, was called up to the major leagues on April 25 and missed 28 games with a left knee injury.

Acuna was 3-for-3 in Game 1 with the home run and a two-run double. He was 3-for-5 in Game 2 with the home run and two singles. Acuna has now led off a game with a homer four times this season.

The impressive stats really add up since Acuna was moved to the leadoff spot after the all-star break. In the 23 games, he has hit .356 (32-for-90) with 10 home runs, one triple and six doubles.

“I kind of looked at (Braves manager Brian Snitker) after he did it again and thought, ‘Wow, he is some kind of hot right now,’” Freddie Freeman said. “The way he’s swinging the bat right now is kind of what he did in spring training. Every time he goes up to the plate, you feel he’s going to do something special. He’s been huge for us.

“He’s going to be special. He’s already special right now. I don’t think there is a ceiling we’ve seen yet.”

The sweep moves the Braves a full game ahead of the Phillies for first place in the National League East. The Braves stand at 66-51 while the idle Phillies are 66-52. The Braves are 12-4 in their last 16 games, dating back to July 29.

The Braves took a 2-0 lead in the first inning as Johan Camargo delivered an RBI single, scoring Ozzie Albies, after Acuna’s home run. You figured that would be enough against the struggling Marlins. However, the Braves added another run in the fifth inning when Acuna, Albies and Freeman hit consecutive two-out singles.

Foltynewicz helped his own cause with an RBI single in the sixth inning, after Dansby Swanson was intentionally walked ahead of him. Foltynewicz’s hit drew a standing ovation from the dugout. Acuna following with an RBI single to give the Braves a 5-1 lead.

The Marlins scored in the sixth inning on an RBI double by Starlin Castro.

Foltynewicz (10-7) has won his last three starts. The right-hander worked eight innings before being relieved for a pinch-hitter. He allowed one earned run struck out seven and walked one. He threw 113 pitches, 71 for strikes. 

Foltynewicz is now 5-1 against the Marlins in his career, including 2-0 this season.

“We’ve been waiting for this kid since the start of spring training,” Foltynewicz said of Acuna after he was staked to an early lead. “We are happy as hell to have him on our team. Every single night he is doing something. Leadoff home runs, I don’t know how you pitch to him to lead off the game.”

Freeman led off the seventh inning with a home run to right center for his 19th of the season that extended the Braves’ lead to the final margin of 6-1.

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