Acuña homers twice, on cusp of 40-40

Strider (11 K's) closing in on single-season team record

September 20th, 2023

ATLANTA -- After nearing the Braves’ single-season strikeout record in the modern era during a 9-3 win over the Phillies on Tuesday night at Truist Park, Spencer Strider came to the interview room wearing a 30-60 T-shirt that was designed to commemorate Ronald Acuña Jr. becoming the first player to ever have 30 homers and 60 stolen bases in the same season.

“He’s going to negate the T-shirt they made for him pretty quickly, so I thought I’d wear it,” Strider said. “Yeah, I’m very grateful to have had a front-row seat this year to everything he has done this year. Who knows what he’ll do the rest of his career. I’m sure it will make this year look like an average year for him.”

  • Games remaining (11): vs. PHI (1), at WSH (4), vs. CHC (3), vs. WSH (3)
  • Standings update: The Braves (97-54) have clinched a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the NL Division 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.

With a multihomer performance, Acuña moved one home run away from producing the first 40-60 season in AL/NL history. He also tallied his 67th steal, so he’s also one homer and three steals away from tallying the first recorded 40-70 season in the big leagues.

Ozzie Albies actually predicted his good friend would go 50-50 this year. But 40-70?

“When you hear those kinds of things, you almost set it as a goal,” Acuña said through an interpreter. “But now that we’re here, I didn’t think I’d be in this situation.”

As for Strider, nearing the end of his first full season as a big league starter, he has 270 strikeouts. That is nearly 50 more than any other MLB pitcher this year. It’s also just six shy of the franchise record John Smoltz set in 1996.  

“He’s a superstar, and he’s an incredible pitcher,” Acuña said. “I’m just glad he’s on our side.”

An incredible amount of respect was expressed as Acuña and Strider discussed what occurred to help the Braves end a four-game losing streak that stretched back to when they clinched a sixth straight NL East title last week.

The Braves still own a two-game lead over the Orioles in the battle for MLB’s best record and home-field advantage for the World Series. They have a 3 1/2-game lead over the Dodgers for the NL’s best record and home-field advantage in the NL Championship Series.

It didn’t take Acuña long to erase any lingering concerns about the Braves losing four straight. The right fielder homered against Cristopher Sánchez’s first pitch of the game and also singled to begin a four-run fifth against Michael Lorenzen. He notched a stolen base during that inning and then tallied his 39th homer and 100th RBI in the sixth. His MLB-leading run total is 138.

Acuña is bidding to record just the 15th season to consist of 200 hits, 40 homers, 100 RBIs and 140 runs. Lou Gehrig (4) and Babe Ruth (3) combined to account for seven of the 14 such seasons on record. The only players to do this since 1937 have been Ellis Burks (‘96) and Larry Walker (‘97).

If Acuña were to end up tallying 150 runs and meeting each of those other marks, it would be just the eighth time a player has reached all these thresholds in the same season and first time since 1937.

“He just keeps putting together some kind of special year,” Snitker said.

Acuña needs one more homer to secure the fifth 40-40 season in AL/NL history on top of the first 40-60 season. Alex Rodriguez’s 46 steals in 1998 stand as the highest total recorded during a 40-homer season, so it’s safe to say a 40-60 season and especially a 40-70 season didn’t seem to be reasonably attainable before this season.

Strider exited the fifth inning having struck out eight of the past 10 batters he faced. He now has an MLB-high 11 double-digit strikeout games this year. Kevin Gausman ranks second with eight. Shohei Ohtani and Freddy Peralta have six.

How would Acuña approach Strider?

“I faced him in Spring Training,” Acuña said. “So I don’t have any approach or mentality. I don’t want to face him ever again.”