Acuña slated for G1; Martin (groin) uncertain

September 28th, 2020

ATLANTA -- Max Fried will start Game 1 of the Wild Card Series, and is expected to be at the top of Atlanta’s lineup, but the Braves are heading into the postseason not knowing whether setup man will be available.

As the Braves prepared ahead of their 9-1 loss to the Red Sox in Sunday afternoon's regular-season finale, they saw Fried throw live batting practice without his previously sore left ankle providing any trouble, but they also learned Acuña’s left wrist was once again sore.

All indications are Acuña being a late scratch from Sunday’s lineup was simply a precautionary move. The 22-year-old outfielder wanted to play, but the Braves were not going to take any chances with Game 1 of the Wild Card Series against the Reds set for Wednesday.

“He said it was a little sore, so there was no reason for him to play,” manager Brian Snitker said. “He can get treatment today, tomorrow, the next and then be ready to go.”

Acuña was also initially hoping a couple of days of rest would be sufficient in August, when he ended up missing two weeks with left wrist inflammation.

But if Acuña does improve over the next couple days, then Sunday’s most troubling health-related news occurred in the seventh inning, when Martin exited with right groin discomfort. The right-handed reliever threw just four pitches before signaling to the training staff. He was able to walk to the clubhouse without assistance.

“It’s smart that he came off so that we can get in front of it,” Snitker said. “Hopefully, it’s nothing.”

Martin’s exit brought back bad memories of the oblique strain he sustained while warming up in the fateful eighth inning of Game 1 of last year’s National League Division Series. Once the Braves lost Game 5 of that best-of-five series, there was reason to wonder if the outcome would have been different had Martin not had the injury before throwing the first postseason pitch of his career.

Martin has allowed just eight hits while producing a 1.00 ERA over 18 innings (19 appearances) this year. His absence would enhance the importance of All-Star reliever Will Smith, who allowed a Jackie Bradley Jr. home run on Sunday.

Smith has limited opponents to a .190 batting average and has struck out 29 percent (18 of 62) of the batters faced. But seven of the 11 hits he has surrendered have been home runs.

“He’s feeling good and he’s throwing good,” Snitker said. “When he’s out there, I have a good feeling.”