ATLANTA -- Ronald Acuna Jr. is too young to have a gained a strong memory of Rickey Henderson's playing days. But the Braves phenom has spent the past few days doing his best impersonation of Henderson as a leadoff hitter.After drilling a leadoff homer in the first game of Monday's
ATLANTA -- Ronald Acuna Jr. is too young to have a gained a strong memory of Rickey Henderson's playing days. But the Braves phenom has spent the past few days doing his best impersonation of Henderson as a leadoff hitter.
After drilling a leadoff homer in the first game of Monday's doubleheader against the Marlins, Acuna smashed Merandy Gonzalez's first pitch of the second game over the center-field wall. The 20-year-old Braves phenom became just the fourth player in Major League history to begin both ends of a twin bill with a home run.
"Freddie Freeman and I were just standing there kind of smiling at each other thinking, 'Again?'" Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He's swinging the bat really well. He feels good. His takes are good. He's aggressive. It's been fun to watch."
Acuna joined Harry Hooper of the Red Sox (May 30, 1913), Henderson (July 6, 1993) and Brady Anderson (Aug. 21, 1999) as the only players to hit a leadoff homer in both ends of a doubleheader.
"I kind of went up there with the mentality of hopefully swinging at the first pitch," Acuna said through an interpreter. "I saw it in the location that I wanted it. Thankfully, I was able to connect and it was a home run."
When Acuna got things rolling in the first game with a homer off Pablo Lopez, there was already reason for some level of astonishment. He had also opened Saturday's game against the Brewers with a homer off Wade Miley.
Acuna has hit three of his four leadoff homers within the past three days. He has also homered in four consecutive games, becoming the first Braves player to do so since Brian McCann in 2012. McCann matched the franchise record in '06, when he homered in five straight games.
"I kind of looked at Snit after he did it again [in Monday's second game] and thought, "Wow, he is some kind of hot right now,'" Freeman said. "The way he's swinging the bat right now is kind of what he did in Spring Training. Every time he goes up to the plate, you feel he's going to do something special. He's been huge for us."
The Braves have now matched the franchise record with seven leadoff homers. Having accounted for four of those, Acuna stands a long way from Henderson's Major League record of 81. But his recent pace has at least conjured memories of the Hall of Fame outfielder.
"Every time I'm at the plate, I'm just trying to have a good at-bat and make good contact with the ball," Acuna said.
With the recent surge, Acuna is challenging Juan Soto of the Nationals for consideration for the National League Rookie of the Year Award. After the doubleheader, Acuna has a slash line of .282/.342/.552 with 17 homers and 39 RBIs.
Acuna has hit .344, tallied 10 homers and constructed a 1.177 OPS in 23 games since moving to the leadoff spot immediately after the All-Star break.
"He's making adjustments constantly," Braves right fielder Nick Markakis said. "You can see it pitch by pitch. Sometimes, he's fouling them off a little late and he's getting himself going a little earlier. He's been great at the top of the lineup. He's been doing exactly what he should and even more. Hopefully, he keeps it going."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.