For those of you unable to watch Tuesday’s opening game of the NLDS live (this 2 PM time slot is insane!), the Braves offense came up big and beat Miami 9-5. Chase provided the recap shortly after the game, but today, I wanted to revisit perhaps the most popular storyline from yesterday’s matchup: Ronald Acuna Jr. homered AND was hit by a Marlins’ pitch… again.
Here’s the dinger…
Speed.@ronaldacunajr24 does it all.
(MLB x GoogleCloud) pic.twitter.com/FqZ1jFBts1
— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) October 6, 2020
And here’s the hit-by-pitch…
Tempers flare in Houston after Ronald Acuña Jr. was HBP in his first AB after hitting a home run: pic.twitter.com/R3dWJLeXa1
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 6, 2020
As the scoreboard in the clip directly above shows, Acuna’s beaning came on an 0-1 count in the third-inning (the very next AB after his HR), hitting the star outfielder square on the hip at 98 MPH. Miami’s starter, Sandy Alcantara, wasn’t exactly Greg Maddux with his command out there, but of his 95 total pitches on Tuesday, per Baseball Savant, not one was thrown that far off the plate. As you can imagine, Acuna was not happy.
For those of you new to this whole Miami-hitting-Acuna-with-baseballs game, Tuesday’s beanball now runs the count up to five hit-by-pitches from the Marlins since mid-August of 2018. That he has been hit that many times by a Marlins’ pitcher in the last two seasons may not seem too crazy (Miami’s Brian Anderson and Miguel Rojas have been hit by the Braves six times apiece in a comparable number of PA), but once some context is provided it’s quite obvious what’s going on here.
Consider what started all of this: Back during the 2018 season, the first-place Braves and last-place Marlins were matched up in what was a rather insignificant four-game series at SunTrust Park, spanning from Aug. 13-15. Atlanta was coming off a sweep in the previous day’s double-header, in which they outscored Miami 15-2, and Acuna had an incredible day during those two blow-out wins, going 5 for 8 (.625 AVG) at the plate, including two homers, a double and five RBI. However, the 20-year-old Acuna was just getting started. Game 3 of the series came on Tuesday, Aug. 14, and after Braves’ starter Anibal Sanchez held the Marlins scoreless in Miami’s half of the first inning, the Atlanta offense struck quickly when Acuna jumped all over the first pitch thrown by Trevor Richards for a lead-off home run. One pitch later, Charlie Culberson also homered. The Braves quickly led 2-0, and the momentum was instantly drained from the Marlins. Acuna grounded out in the second inning, singled in the fourth, and flew out in the sixth, before slugging another bases-empty long ball in the seventh to break a 6-6 tie. The Braves would win 10-6, and with his pair of homers, Acuna was up to four for the series, not to mention eight hits in his first 13 AB (.615 AVG). However, the next day all hell broke loose in the final game.
Aug. 15, 2018
Benches clear in Marlins-Braves after José Ureña hits Ronald Acuña Jr. in 1st inning.
Acuña Jr. (5 straight games with HR, 3 straight with leadoff HR) exits in 2nd inning. pic.twitter.com/V2aSu97YEX
— MLB (@MLB) August 16, 2018
Miami jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, before starter Jose Urena drilled Acuna just above the elbow with a 97 MPH fastball (fastest of his career). The benches cleared, Urena was suspended for six games, and this incredibly stupid (and dangerous) fiasco had begun.
Aug. 23, 2018
Just a week after the Urena beaning, Marlins reliever Javy Guerra decided to continue the feud between the two teams when he beaned Acuna in the seventh inning of a 5-0 game — two ABs after RAJ’s home run to lead off the third inning. What’s bad about this one is that neither Elieser Hernandez (Miami’s starter) nor reliever Jarlin Garcia (who replaced Hernandez) went after Acuna. This whole situation could’ve been contained to just one game if not for Guerra.
Aug. 20, 2019
Don’t compliment Hernandez yet. Last season the Marlins righty stooped to Urena and Guerra’s level when he hit Acuna with the first pitch of the bottom of the first inning. Just because it was a new season didn’t mean Miami was done being petty, for it was obvious why Hernandez did it: he simply knew that he probably wouldn’t get RAJ out. Up to that point in the 2019 season, Acuna was hitting .330 with eight home runs versus the Marlins, including the two team’s most recent series in which he went 7 for 16 (.438 AVG) with four homers.
Sept. 7, 2020
In the two team’s early September series, Urena had two chances to again bean Acuna, but he had to settle for a five-pitch walk in the first inning and a popout in the second. However, the Marlins starter wasn’t leaving until he did something, so he drilled Acuna in the fourth-inning while holding on to just a one-run lead. It’s all about priorities, right? Acuna immediately stole second off Urena.
Oct. 6, 2020
With the stakes at its highest in a playoff game, Miami still reverted back to its childish ways. The fact that Alcantara had an 0-1 count on Acuna just goes to show how screwed up that Miami ball club really is when it comes to competing to win. A 421-foot homer by Acuna to lead off Game 1 of the NLDS was followed up by a beanball in the third inning. What the Marlins may not realize, though, is that their decision to hit Acuna is probably what got the Braves fired up enough to break out with two runs in that same inning.
Just keep doing what you’re doing RAJ
Sure, Acuna stared at his homer on Tuesday. It was a huge hit that got the scoring going for his team — in a postseason series nonetheless. But even if it was a day game in the middle of May, Acuna has every right to pimp every single hit he ever records against the Marlins. He owns them.
In 44 career games (or 204 PA) versus Miami, the 22-year-old is slashing. 318/.414/.665 (1.079 OPS) with 17 homers, nine doubles, and 42 RBI, to go along with eight stolen bases in nine attempts. His 135 OPS+ against Marlins pitching is bested by only his marks against the Twins (167) and Pirates (148), two teams he has faced far less. And Acuna has earned every bit of those numbers, for not only has he had to consistently perform versus Miami, but he’s had to take a beating for doing it… all while keeping his composure (any other player probably would’ve charged the mound by now).
Given the two team’s history, this NLDS series was already expected to be contentious. Although, I really didn’t think the Marlins would continue their antics in the middle of a crucial playoff series. But it’s obvious that Miami still hasn’t come to grips with reality. Just like Chipper always dominated the Mets, Acuna will forever rake against Miami. And seeing just how mad it makes the Fish, I look forward to watching him keep it up throughout this series and beyond.
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