ATLANTA -- Offered the chance to wear No. 21 during his youth baseball days, Eddie Rosario followed the lead of many other Puerto Ricans who have long respectfully declined to wear Roberto Clemente’s number because they have not felt worthy.
“As Puerto Ricans, [Clemente] is the example [that] we all try to follow on and off the field,” said Rosario through an interpreter. “So, it’s obviously a big honor for me to be able to wear that number. But, more than anything, I think a battle that I've taken up and I think [that] all of us Puerto Ricans have taken up is just the battle [of] trying to get his number retired across MLB.”
Well, they can retire the number as long as Rosario has a chance to wear it every Roberto Clemente Day. He has now homered while wearing the iconic number both of the past two years that MLB has celebrated this in-season holiday.
Unfortunately, his two-hit performance in this latest game didn’t conclude in celebratory fashion.
Raimel Tapia’s one-out RBI single off A.J. Minter in the 10th proved to be the decisive blow for the Braves, who are now just 3 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Phillies with 18 games to play. Atlanta’s magic number to win a fourth straight NL East title is 15.
One of the few positives the Braves could take from this second straight loss to the Rockies was the fact that Freddie Freeman seemed to avoid injury after his left thumb was stepped on by C.J. Cron as he fielded Will Smith’s low throw to first base in the ninth inning. In the bottom half of the inning, Freeman hit a two-out drive that would have ended the game had Garrett Hampson not raced it down just shy of the warning track.
This wasn’t the most picturesque contest, as rain soaked the field throughout much of the game. The grounds crew provided in-game maintenance regularly and the players managed the conditions, knowing this was better than hoping to play a doubleheader on Thursday, when rain is once again in the forecast.
But Rosario created some light for the Braves with a two-out RBI single in the second. This provided a lead until Huascar Ynoa faltered in the fifth and ended his outing by issuing Charlie Blackmon a two-out, bases-loaded walk.
Rosario quickly erased the deficit by opening the bottom of the fifth with a 374-foot homer that easily cleared the right-field wall.
Other than to honor Clemente, a Braves player has not worn the No. 21 since Warren Spahn ended his long tenure with the club in 1964. So, in a way, Rosario rekindled fond memories of both of these Hall of Famers as he wore their number.
“I’m sure he’ll take that jersey home and frame it,” manager Brian Snitker said. “I’m sure that felt really good to him.”
Rosario has been one of the difference-making outfielders the Braves acquired without having to give up much at the July 30 Trade Deadline. He was acquired in exchange for Pablo Sandoval, who was promptly released by the Indians.
In fairness, the Indians wanted to test some of their younger outfielders while playing out the season and Rosario hadn’t done much to that point, having produced a .685 OPS in the 78 games he played for Cleveland before he strained an abdominal muscle in early July. Rosario was on the injured list when he was acquired by Atlanta and he remained there until he was activated on Aug. 27.
Rosario has hit .256 with four homers and a .974 OPS in 39 at-bats for the Braves. The 29-year-old outfielder is just two years removed from a 30-homer season. But he has gladly accepted his new responsibility of adding value to the eighth spot of Atlanta’s power-packed lineup.
“I feel good when he’s up there [at the plate],” Snitker added. “He’s an aggressive guy and he’s a contact guy. If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t be talking right now. We’d have been talking two hours ago.”