Ronald Acuña Jr.'s replacements thrive for Atlanta in NLCS

ATLANTA – The Atlanta Braves had played more than half of their schedule, they still had a loss record, and then things got really bad. ...


ATLANTA – The Atlanta Braves had played more than half of their schedule, they still had a loss record, and then things got really bad.

On July 10 in Miami, their best player, Ronald Acuña Jr., ran onto the grass of the outfield for a fly ball deep in Miami. It was over his head but he leaped anyway, hovering over the warning trail like a long jumper. Acuña landed hard on earth and couldn’t get up.

In a way, his team did it. Acuña’s season ended that July night with a complete tear to his right anterior cruciate ligament, but for general manager Alex Anthopoulos the challenge was on.

“I’m not an emotional guy where I throw things or get angry and scream and scream,” Anthopoulos said in an interview a few weeks after the injury. “I wish we had Acuña; he’s one of the best players in the game. It changes our odds, of course. You cannot replace Ronald Acuña. But I just don’t believe you can have the following mindset: you lose a player and shut them down for the season. “

Anthopoulos takes the same approach to team building as his players at home and on goal. He’s aggressive, and when he knows what he wants, he doesn’t waste time. In July he wanted voltigeurs – really needed them – so he traded for four: Adam Duvall, Joc Pederson, Eddie Rosario and Jorge Soler.

None had particularly good seasons, so the cost was low. But everything had been productive in the recent past, and Anthopoulos believed that one or more could make a difference.

“He was hoping we had a chance, a big chance, to come back – and we did it for him,” said second baseman Ozzie Albies, who helped Atlanta rally to win a weak National League East. . “He did a phenomenal job finding these guys for us and got the team going. “

They made it through to the National League championship series, with Acuña cheering on his teammates in the dugout. On Sunday, when Acuña was in first place with two strikeouts late in the ninth inning in Game 2 against the Los Angeles Dodgers, one of his replacements was ready.

“To be fair, it was a competition at the start,” Rosario said via a performer on Sunday night, after her fourth single of the night scored Dansby Swanson to finish. a 5-4 win, giving Atlanta a two-game lead to none.

“The four of us showed up and I think we all wanted to have some playing time and be in the lineup. And obviously all three guys were successful on the pitch so for me it was definitely a sense of urgency to try and get my way into the lineup as much as possible.

Atlanta wouldn’t be here without him. In Game 1, Rosario started with a single, stole the second and scored on wild ground. In Game 2, his third single started a tying trade against Julio Urias in the eighth, and his fourth, a smash through Dodgers midfielder Kenley Jansen, deflected shortstop Corey Seager’s glove and into the field. central for victory.

It was the second consecutive success for Atlanta, a nice reward for fans who had waited 20 years to host another NLCS.

“It’s a team that you better not leave early,” said manager Brian Snitker, who received the only gift he wanted for his 66th birthday on Sunday. “You’ll end up missing the best part of the game and listening to it on your radio when you get home, because these guys never give up. They never did. They haven’t done it for years here.

Maybe not, but as a franchise the Braves aren’t known as the top finishers. Their 1990s juggernaut reached the NLCS eight times and won five pennants – but only one championship, in 1995. Their luck has been worse in this century.

No other franchise has reached the playoffs so many times in the 2000s without a World Series appearance. This is the team’s 13th trip since their 1999 pennant, and last year’s one was particularly heartbreaking. At the neutral site in Arlington, Texas, they blew up a three-game-one NLCS lead to the Dodgers, who went on to win the title.

This year’s series plays out similar to Austin Riley, whose single won match 1, said Sunday evening.

“We were ahead of them 2-0 last year so it’s like one of those things where you can’t stop now, you have to keep applying the pressure,” Riley said, later adding: “C is at the back of your mind: It’s a very good ball club, they never come out of it until the last word. “

Atlanta got the last laugh in the NLCS by winning the division with 88 wins; the Dodgers had 106, but as a wild-card participant they opened up on the road. With two losses already, the Dodgers should return here to win the series.

The Dodgers will give Walker Buehler extra home rest in Game 3, and manager Dave Roberts has said they will “lean on him” at that point. Maybe but the evidence suggests otherwise. The Dodgers used eight pitchers in Game 1 and seven on Sunday, determined to confuse opposing hitters as much as possible.

When it comes to pitching strategy, the Dodgers are the street con artists and the opponent is the mark, some to fall for their act of going up to three cards. It usually works, all that gun-shuffling, and some of the Atlanta players – like poor Freddie Freeman, who is 0 for 8 with seven strikeouts – were taken aback.

But the Atlanta hitters aren’t trying to work deep counts and shoot goals; they’ve only walked twice this series but have 16 hits, two more than the Dodgers, who are 2 for 18 with runners in scoring position.

“We knew coming in they were very aggressive with the stick, especially early in the count,” said Roberts. “You really have to pitch this first pitch. “

Pederson took the biggest swing of Game 2, turning Max Scherzer’s 1-0 curveball in fourth for his third homerun of the playoffs. Rosario took the final blow, ripping Jansen’s first-pitch cutter for the game-winner, taking his playoff average to 0.409.

Anthopoulos’ other two additions to the outfield haven’t done much lately. Soler is out for the series after testing positive for the coronavirus, and Duvall – the NL’s RBI leader for the regular season – is still looking for his first RBI in these playoffs.

But Anthopoulos bought in bulk to replace the irreplaceable one, and the parts fit together nicely. The October surge stems from the desperation of July and the newcomers who have come to the rescue.

“We saw a difference right away,” Albies said. “The team clicks more and we’ve started playing better ball games, and that’s one of the main reasons we’re here today.”



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Newsrust - US Top News: Ronald Acuña Jr.'s replacements thrive for Atlanta in NLCS
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