“Yeah, I definitely think it was … a fitting ending to the way we played the Marlins,” Acuna said through an interpreter. “But I would have much rather ... hit a home run against them.”
Gawk at Acuna’s final numbers for 2019 against the Marlins: .319 batting average, .402 on-base percentage, .708 slugging percentage, nine home runs and 18 RBIs. All of that in 72 at-bats.
“It’s dominance,” pitcher Mike Soroka said. “It’s simple. He came to play every single day, and I don’t know if that had anything to do with last year (when Marlins pitcher Jose Urena infamously drilled Acuna in the elbow on the first pitch of a game).
“He does it against all teams. But what he did against them, I think it put them in a situation where they’d get him up to the plate and everybody knows he’s got a good chance to do damage.”
Now gawk at the Braves’ numbers against the Marlins: a 15-4 record this season and a 29-9 record over the past two seasons – the most wins by any National League team against any opponent in either period.
Acuna came to the plate against the Marlins for the final time this year with two out and new teammate Adeiny Hechavarria on third base in the bottom of the ninth. Hechavarria had led off the inning with a double down the left-field line.
No one in the stadium was surprised when Acuna lined reliever Ryne Stanek’s 2-2 splitter into left-center for the game-ending hit.
“I had a pretty good feeling (that would happen),” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He has had a really unbelievable year against that one club, that’s for sure.”
“He got his pitch to hit,” Soroka said, “and he didn’t miss.”
The result was the Braves’ eighth walk-off victory this season, the second ended by an Acuna hit.
And so a series that began Tuesday night with another Marlins pitcher (Elieser Hernandez) hitting Acuna with his first pitch, this time in the side, ended Thursday night with Acuna’s walkoff hit. In between, Acuna hit a two-run homer Wednesday.
The Braves took a 1-0 lead in the second inning Thursday on an RBI single by veteran shortstop Hechavarria, who has hits in five of six games since joining the team last week. But they fell behind 2-1 in the seventh when the Marlins strung together three consecutive hits against an otherwise excellent Soroka, who allowed just five hits in seven innings. Freddie Freeman’s home run in the eighth, his 34th of the season, tied the game and set up the ninth-inning finish.
The win was the Braves’ fifth in a row and completed a 7-2 homestand. Now they go on the road for six games: three in New York against the Mets this weekend, a makeup game at Colorado on Monday and two games at Toronto on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The trip opens Friday night with last year’s NL Cy Young Award winner, Jacob deGrom, pitching for the Mets. Mike Foltynewicz will start for the Braves.
As for the Marlins: Acuna and the Braves will face them again on April 3, next season’s home opener.