Ronald Acuna torments Marlins again, Braves prevail

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Sean Newcomb delivers during the first inning of the team's baseball game against the Miami Marlins, Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Sean Newcomb delivers during the first inning of the team's baseball game against the Miami Marlins, Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Credit: Lynne Sladky

Credit: Lynne Sladky

Physical representation of Ronald Acuna’s damage against the Marlins was etched on a wall in Marlins Park.

His latest display occurred in the Braves’ first game against the Marlins since Jose Urena intentionally plunked Acuna with a pitch Aug. 15. The Braves got the last laugh that night, completing a sweep.

They got the last laugh again Thursday with a 5-0 win in Miami. It was the Braves’ 13th win in 16 tries, and seventh consecutive victory, over their sluggish southern rivals. If they win the East, their results against the Marlins and Mets will ring loudly.

Miami didn’t get a hit off Sean Newcomb until the fifth. By then, the Braves had three home runs. Charlie Culberson and Ender Inciarte went deep with Acuna’s 21st homer sandwiched in between.

Acuna hit a third-inning drive near the lit Budweiser sign in left-center, a locale oft-visited by power-extraordinaire Giancarlo Stanton during his Marlins days. The home run, measured at 432 feet and clocked 105 mph leaving the bat, literally dented the white wall bearing the ‘427’ sign.

It was Acuna’s seventh homer against the Fish, his most versus any opponent.

“It felt good obviously with everything that’d been going on to hit that homer,” Acuna said through team interpreter Franco Garcia. “But I’m not really focused on that. I’m focused on getting better and moving forward.”

Javy Guerra struck Acuna’s wrist with a pitch in the sixth, though it appeared accidental. After the game, manager Brian Snitker and catcher Tyler Flowers agreed they didn’t see intent.

Acuna slammed his helmet in frustration but benches didn’t clear. Snitker and trainer George Poulis checked on Acuna and he stayed in the game.

“In the moment I was a little upset because I was hit before in the previous series,” Acuna said. “But you know what, that’s just things of the game and those things stay on the field.”

Flowers added, “In that situation, he’s not trying to drill him. But definitely bad timing for that to happen to that specific guy. You don’t like it. You don’t like it for anybody, but especially that same guy again. I don’t think there was intent but at times you have to be a little bit smarter about locations, pitch selections at certain times and all that. But it’s part of the game.”

The Braves were still compelled to respond. Newcomb twice threw inside to J.T. Realmuto before finally hitting rookie Brian Anderson. Home plate umpire Chris Conroy issued a warning to both dugouts.

“I didn’t have good fastball command much at all tonight,” Newcomb said.

The lefty allowed two hits and struck out eight in six innings. His only dangerous point came with two out in the sixth, when the Marlins loaded the bases because of Anderson’s hit by pitch and Starlin Castro’s walk. Newcomb got Austin Dean to ground out on the fifth pitch.

He was greeted by his coaches and teammates back in the dugout. Snitker was the first to approach him, offering a handshake.

“The emotions should be up for winning a game,” Snitker said when asked how to keep his team in check. “I’d be angry too (if I was Acuna). It hurts. He did exactly what he should do - go to first.”

How things have changed since April: Acuna was slumping in Triple-A before his callup. Culberson finished the month 2-for-25, shrouded in calls for his release.

Culberson, starting at shortstop during Dansby Swanson’s off-day, cranked a shot to left that plated two runs in the second. He’s hitting over .350 since the All-Star break while manning seven different positions over the season.

“I told (bench coach) Walt (Weiss) before the game, ‘We’re playing the secret weapon,” Snitker said.

As for Acuna, not only has he blossomed into one of the National League’s best overall players, he’s mastered the art of celebrating his success. He took a moment to admire his towering shot, though not in what some may deem an obnoxious manner. He casually flipped his bat while beginning his excursion around the bases.

“He’s awesome,” Newcomb said. “Fun to be around.”

The Braves preserved a three-game lead in the NL East. The Phillies defeated Washington earlier in the afternoon.

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