Does Atlanta have the most dangerous hitting trio?

April 15th, 2023

KANSAS CITY -- It might take some time before , and are widely viewed as baseball’s most dangerous trio.

But the argument certainly gained steam as the three sluggers propelled the Braves to a 10-3 win over the Royals on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium. Olson and Riley hit back-to-back homers in a four-run first, and Acuña highlighted a three-hit night with his own homer.

“It looks good on paper and it showed during Spring Training,” Olson said. “You obviously want to come out and have a good start [to the game]. [Acuña] has been setting the tone like crazy.”

And that might be an understatement.

Acuña has recorded a leadoff hit in nine of the Braves’ first 14 games. He is hitting .692 (9-for-13) with two doubles, a homer, two stolen bases, a .714 on-base percentage, a 1.077 slugging percentage and a 1.791 OPS in the first inning.

“He can hit a ball 480 feet on the first pitch, and if he hits a single or a double, he’s very likely to steal a bag, which makes pitchers uncomfortable too," Olson said. "It’s tough when you’re on the other side and you don’t feel like you can settle into a game.”

As the Braves rolled to a fourth straight win, they gained a steady start from , two more extra-base hits from and a homer from nine-hole hitter . But much of the offensive noise came from the imposing trio of Acuña, Olson and Riley, who fill Atlanta’s first three lineup spots.

Acuña began the game with his MLB-leading ninth first-inning hit. Olson and Riley followed with back-to-back homers, the first time the Braves have done that since an April 1 win at Nationals Park. Riley’s solo shot was the 100th homer of his young career.

Within the game’s first 12 pitches, the Braves had tallied three runs off Brady Singer, who had posted a 2.76 ERA over his past 16 starts going back to July. Singer certainly won’t be the last pitcher to see a successful stretch halted by the vaunted trio at the top of Atlanta’s lineup.

“It’s fun to come to the yard every day,” Riley said. “You’re going to war with those guys, and they bring it every day. That makes it easy. “

The early results have been encouraging to say the least. Acuña is hitting .390 with five home runs and a 1.056 OPS. Olson is hitting .304 with five homers and a 1.070 OPS. Riley is hitting .327 with three homers and a .967 OPS. 

What kind of impact can this trio have to start a game? Well, among MLB teams in the first inning, the Braves rank first in hits (26), home runs (7), batting average (.413), slugging percentage (.825) and OPS (1.260). They rank second in runs (14), RBIs (14) and on-base percentage (.435).

“I feel like I’ve been hitting with [Acuña] on base every single at-bat,” Olson said. “He’s doing it all.”

Acuña, Olson and Riley account for three of the 27 players who have hit at least 38 homers during one of the past four seasons. This means 11.1 percent of this group fills the top three spots in Atlanta's lineup.

The power potential, combined with the dynamics Acuña provides with his power-speed combo, gives Atlanta a chance to consistently make first-inning noise and strengthen the argument that they have the game’s most dangerous trio.