ATLANTA -- Ronald Acuña Jr. and Matt Olson received standing ovations as they made their planned early exits from the Braves’ 10-9 loss to the Nationals on Sunday afternoon at Truist Park. But the most memorable moment in the regular-season finale came in the ninth inning when Marcell Ozuna drilled Atlanta’s 307th home run of the year, matching the MLB record set by the 2019 Twins.
“We had a lot of success this year,” Ozuna said. “Thanks to God. We wanted to break the record, but God gave us only a tie. That’s an amazing season for each guy.”
Ozuna hasn’t drawn the National League Most Valuable Player attention being showered on Acuña and Olson. But he is a primary reason the Braves are heading to the postseason as World Series favorites. He exited April hitting .085 with two homers, two RBIs and a .397 OPS.
The veteran designated hitter has batted .297 with 38 home runs and a .969 OPS since the start of May. His two-homer performance in the season finale left him with a 40-homer, 100-RBI season.
Breaking MLB’s single-season homer record was one of the few feats the Braves didn’t accomplish as they tallied 104 wins and won a sixth straight NL East title. But the record might not have been a huge deal. Manager Brian Snitker didn’t even know the team had tied it before being asked about it in his postgame media scrum.
“Yeah, I guess,” Snitker said.
Quite frankly, Snitker has seen plenty of records broken over the past few weeks. But more importantly, his sights are on the postseason. The Braves will host the winner of the best-of-three Wild Card Series between the Phillies and the Marlins in a best-of-five NL Division Series. Game 1 of the NLDS will be played on Saturday at Truist Park at a to-be-determined time.
Atlanta will play a trio of moderated games against some of the organization’s Minor Leaguers this week at Truist Park. Max Fried will test the blister on his left index finger by throwing at least four innings on Tuesday night. It appears Spencer Strider will start Game 1 of the NLDS on Saturday and Fried will get the call in Game 2 on Oct. 9, but the team hasn’t announced its rotation plans.
Sunday’s game gave the Braves a chance to pad some of their gaudy numbers one last time. Acuña exited to a standing ovation at the start of the second inning, and Olson did the same at the start of the third. Snitker also wanted to rest Austin Riley, but the third baseman was fighting for a 100-RBI season. He fell three short.
“It was a cool moment,” Olson said. “Snit gave us a chance to do that, which was nice. It’s been a good year for a lot of us. We’ve won a lot of games. But that doesn’t mean anything now. This is where the fun starts.”
With Olson (139), Ozzie Albies (109), Acuña (106) and Ozuna (100), the Braves tied a franchise high (since RBIs became official in 1920) with four players with 100 or more RBIs. Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, Javy Lopez and Gary Sheffield each drove in at least 100 runs in 2003.
Even with some regulars sitting throughout this final regular-season series, Atlanta ended with a .501 team slugging percentage, the highest season mark by any team in MLB history.
Acuña finished his MVP-caliber season hitting .337 with 41 home runs, 217 hits, 80 extra-base hits, 106 RBIs, 149 runs, a 1.012 OPS and 84 strikeouts. He joins Lou Gehrig (1927), Chuck Klein (‘30) and Joe DiMaggio (‘37) as the only players who have hit at least .335 with 40 home runs, 215 hits, 80 extra-base hits, 100 RBIs, 145 runs and a 1.000 OPS with fewer than 90 strikeouts.
Doing something the game hasn’t seen since 1937 is MVP-worthy. And it doesn’t even account for the franchise-record 73 stolen bases Acuña tallied while becoming the first player to have a 40-70 season.
Olson set a franchise record with his MLB-leading 54 home runs. Along with Acuña’s career-high-tying 41 homers and Ozuna’s career-high 40 homers, it marked just the fourth time a team has had three players hit 40 or more homers in the same season. The only non-Rockies club to do so was the 1973 Braves with Hank Aaron, Darrell Evans and Davey Johnson.
Olson also set the franchise’s modern-era RBI record with 139. He nearly recorded MLB’s first 140-RBI season since Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder both reached the mark in 2009. Spencer Strider also got into the record-setting act, as he highlighted his first 20-win season by setting the franchise single-season record in the modern era with 281 strikeouts.
“It’s been special to watch all of that,” Snitker said. “I’ve had a really good seat to watch all of it. It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”