Acuña secures MLB's 1st 40-70 season as Braves nab NL's top seed

Superstar becomes first player to record 40-plus homers, 70-plus steals in a single season

September 28th, 2023

ATLANTA -- did what he admittedly viewed as improbable, and then further energized a raucous crowd with a dash that secured home-field advantage through the National League Championship Series for the Braves.

Acuña was all smiles as his two boys, Jamal and Ronald, joined him in the media room following the Braves’ 6-5, 10-inning win over the Cubs at Truist Park on Wednesday night. Less than 10 minutes earlier, he had recorded a game-tying single, stolen second base and scored on Ozzie Albies’ walk-off single. The steal was his 70th of the season, making him the first person to create the previously unthinkable 40-70 club.

“I’d be lying if I told you I thought I was going to get this done,” Acuña said through an interpreter. “It was one of those numbers that wasn’t impossible, but seemed impossible. Thankfully, we were able to get it done.”

  • Games remaining (4): vs. CHC (1), vs. WSH (3)
  • Standings update: The Braves (102-56) have clinched a first-round bye and home-field advantage through the National League Championship Series. They are the top NL division leader, meaning they would face the winner of the No. 4 vs. No. 5 Wild Card in a five-game NL Division Series starting on Oct. 7.
  • Home-field advantage: The Braves have a three-game lead over the Orioles for MLB’s best record and home-field advantage through the World Series.

Acuña hoisted the second-base bag above his head as the crowd applauded his history-making stolen base. Seconds later, he was sliding headfirst across the plate just ahead of right fielder Seiya Suzuki’s throw.  

“I got goosebumps watching him at second base with the base in his hand,” Albies said. “It’s a dream come true for him. I got the base hit and for him to score the winning run, it was a great game. It’s a game that won’t be forgotten.”

It seemed fitting for Albies to deliver the game-ending single one pitch after Acuña became the first player to ever hit 40-plus homers and notch 70-plus stolen bases in the same season. The two have been best of friends going back to when they first met as teenagers during the Braves’ instructional league in 2015. 

Acuña has 41 homers and 70 stolen bases. He recorded what was just the fifth 40-40 season in MLB history earlier this month. Nobody had previously tallied more than 46 stolen bases during a 40-homer season.

“He might be the only human that can break his own records,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. 

Acuña has astonished his teammates with his ability to continually take his game to previously unrealistic levels. The 40-40 club remains very rare. Barry Bonds and Eric Davis had been the only players to steal 50-plus bases within a 30-homer season.

So, Acuña reached uncharted land when he secured a 30-60 season. That was impressive in and of itself. But now he has 24 more stolen bases than anybody has ever tallied during a 40-homer season.  

“Me and my teammates were just talking about it and we said there’s just three [letters] -- M-V-P,” Marcell Ozuna said. “There’s no doubt.”

Whether Acuña does prevail in his MVP battle with the Dodgers' Mookie Betts remains to be seen. But there is no doubt he has been as valuable as any of the great assets possessed by what has been the NL’s most successful team this year.  

“He's the real MVP,” Albies said. “He did what he always dreamed of doing. He always talked about it, and always wanted to do it. So I'm really happy and excited that he did it here at home with a big crowd.”

Fresh off a comeback win provided by Suzuki’s defensive gaffe on Tuesday night, the Braves got six strong innings from Darius Vines on Wednesday, but found themselves trailing 3-1 before Nico Hoerner’s errant double-play flip gave Atlanta another run in the seventh. 

Ozuna’s ninth-inning homer tied the game at 4 and also left the Braves with 303 homers, four shy of the MLB record the 2019 Twins set. The veteran slugger’s 37th homer came after Acuña and Albies provided a preview of what was coming.

Acuña singled with one out in the eighth and then stole his 69th base in what became uncontested fashion. Catcher Yan Gomes’ throw to second base seemed to slip out of his hand as it traveled toward the left side of the infield. Albies followed with an RBI single to tie the game at 3.

Two innings later, Acuña laced an opposite-field, game-tying single off a Daniel Palencia slider that was down and out of the zone. That led to the historic stolen base and the celebratory finish.  

“The base hit to tie the game was a nasty, nasty pitch,” Snitker said. “Then to get that bag and score the winning run, that's about as good as it gets.”