Olson, Acuña inch closer to history in twin bill with Philly

First baseman belts 49th, 50th homers, one shy of Andruw's franchise record from 2005

September 12th, 2023

PHILADELPHIA -- became the second Braves player to hit 50 home runs in a season, and is just four homers away from the fifth 40-homer, 40-steal season in American League/National League history.

Both NL MVP candidates shined as the Braves moved closer to a sixth straight NL East title while splitting a day-night doubleheader against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Acuña hit his 36th homer, as Atlanta won the first game, 10-8, in 10 innings on Monday afternoon. Olson’s multihomer performance went for naught as Philadelphia claimed a 7-5 win in the nightcap.

“I’m so happy for [Olson],” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s putting together some kind of great year. It couldn’t have happened to a better person.”

Olson is one homer away from matching the franchise record Andruw Jones set in 2005. This is just the seventh 50-homer season recorded by a big leaguer going back to '10. Yankees slugger Aaron Judge accounted for two of the previous six occasions within this span.

“It was definitely a cool moment,” Olson said. “Phillies left fielder [Kyle Schwarber] actually got it from the fan [who caught it]. That was really cool. I respect that from him.”

There will be plenty of attention placed on Acuña, Olson and really all of the Braves’ position players as they chase individual and team records over the next few weeks. But the primary focus is on the NL East race, which would end if Atlanta wins the final two games of this series.

  • Games remaining (18): at PHI (2), at MIA (3), vs. PHI (3), at WSH (4), vs. CHC (3), vs. WSH (3)
  • Standings update: The Braves (94-50) lead the second-place Phillies (79-65) by 15 games in the National League East race. Atlanta is the top NL division leader, meaning it would receive a first-round bye and face the winner of the No. 4 and No. 5 Wild Card teams in a best-of-five NL Division Series starting on Oct. 7.
  • Magic number: For postseason berth: 0; for division title: 4

After overcoming Raisel Iglesias’ blown save in the first game, the Braves opted to give essentially his next “rehab start” in the second game. Wright allowed four runs while facing each of the Phillies’ nine hitters in the first. But he retired six of seven over the next two innings, before showing fatigue while allowing hits to the only two batters he faced in the fourth.

Wright had been on the injured list since feeling right shoulder discomfort during a May 3 start. He totaled just 8 1/3 innings over three rehab starts before being activated for this twin bill. He said he struggled to control the pace of the game during the first frame. But the following innings gave him more reason to feel good about being back in time to celebrate a division title and watch both Olson and Acuña pursue history.

“It’s nice to be able to travel on the road again and see these guys do what they’re doing and be a part of the team again,” Wright said. “Hopefully, I can help the team next time. But it’s great to be here.”

Wright will now be available to eat valuable innings down the stretch. His postseason role will be determined based on performance. But he could be effective as either a starter or reliever.

As for Olson, the Braves are hoping his incredible success extends into the postseason.  

Olson hit a two-out three-run homer off Michael Lorenzen in the third inning, then he opened the sixth inning with an opposite-field shot against the Phillies' starter. This was his 21st career multihomer game and the eighth he has tallied this year.

Olson also leads MLB with 127 RBIs, leaving him eight shy of the Braves' modern franchise record Eddie Mathews set in 1953. Gary Sheffield set the Atlanta season record when he drove in 132 runs in 2003.

“I’m a middle-of-the-order first baseman,” Olson said. “I think driving in runs is part of my job. So, to push runs across and try to help us win is what I’m trying to do.”

Many of those run-scoring opportunities have been created by Acuña, who matched Dale Murphy’s modern era franchise record when he scored his 131st run of the season on Olson’s first home run of the day.

Acuña is five hits away from a 200-hit season, five stolen bases from a 70-steal season, five RBIs from a 100-RBI season and four homers from a 40-homer season. Nobody with a 40-homer season has tallied more than 46 stolen bases.

Because Acuña is in another category in terms of steals, it’s best to point out the only players to have 200 hits, 30 steals, 100 RBIs and 40 homers in a season were the Braves' Hank Aaron (1963), the Rockies' Ellis Burks ('96), the Rockies' Larry Walker ('97) and the Mariners' Alex Rodriguez ('98). Rodriguez was the only member of this quartet to steal as many as 46 bases while reaching each of those other numbers in a season.

But it’s not just Acuña’s power and speed. After losing a Bryson Stott fly ball in the sun during the first game, Acuña picked up the ball, took a step forward and fired a 94.1 mph throw that denied Alec Bohm’s bid to score from first on the play.

“Completely flat-footed, just a dart to home,” Olson said. “I think I saw Bohm and them talking about it on the field, about how he was flat-footed. It’s incredible. I’m surprised every day by him.”