Braves' big boppers 'stressful ride' for any opponent

Acuña, Olson lead off with back-to-back jacks as Atlanta slugs 4 HRs

April 2nd, 2023

WASHINGTON -- Asked what it would be like to prepare for a lineup that started with , and , Braves catcher replied, “I’m sure it’s a very stressful ride to the park.”   

Nationals starter Josiah Gray can now attest to the immediate damage this trio can create. Olson began a two-homer performance by teaming with Acuña to hit back-to-back home runs before Gray recorded the first out in a 7-1 Braves win on Saturday afternoon at Nationals Park.  

Plenty of power was on display as the Braves opened the season with a second straight win. notched nine strikeouts over six scoreless innings and provided some bottom-of-the-lineup power when he tallied his first home run. As for Acuña and Olson, they set the stage by hitting consecutive homers within the game’s first six pitches.

“Just so you know, we called it in [batting practice],” Acuña said through an interpreter. “ was the first to say, 'I think today is the day we’re going to get our first back-to-back home runs.'”

Told of this, Olson said, “I don’t know, he might have made that up.”

But when asked, Arcia confirmed he predicted that Acuña and Olson would go back-to-back in the first inning.

How rare are back-to-back homers to begin a game? According to’s Sarah Langs, this was just the seventh occurrence in Braves history. The most recent had been Aug. 14, 2018, when Acuña and hit back-to-back homers in a home win over the Marlins.

“Ronnie hitting the homer from the jump changes the whole dynamic of the game,” Olson said. “I’ve been on the other side when that happens, and it can be deflating when you come out and somebody at the top of the order has power like that.”

Predicting this Braves pair to eventually begin a game with consecutive homers might not have been viewed as going out on a limb. Acuña extended his franchise record to 27 leadoff homers, which trails only George Springer (34) for MLB’s highest total since the start of 2018 (Acuña’s rookie season).

As for Olson, he seemed primed to show some early power as he homered eight times in just 47 Grapefruit League at-bats this spring. He also stands with Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt and Eugenio Suárez as the only players to hit at least 29 homers in each of the past four 162-game seasons.

Acuña, Olson and Riley are three of 27 MLB players who have hit 38 or more homers during at least one of the past four seasons. That means more than 10 percent of this group fills the first three spots in the Braves’ order.

The Braves' lineup also includes , and Ozuna, all of whom have produced a 30-homer season. was one of the three Braves in Saturday’s lineup who has never reached that mark. But he certainly looked capable as he homered 19 times over 114 games during last year’s rookie season.

“Sometimes, I get a little nervous before a game,” Strider said. “Then, I look at our lineup and I feel a lot better. That’s no offense to anybody else. But we’ve got a lineup I don’t want to face.”

Acuña alone draws plenty of respect, but the level might be even greater with Olson and Riley sitting behind him. He has been thrown a slider with each of the first three pitches he has seen during both of the first two games. He singled against Patrick Corbin’s fourth-pitch sinker in Thursday’s first inning.

Gray wasn’t as fortunate. After getting ahead 0-2 with a pair of sliders, the Nationals right-hander hung one that Acuña lined over the left-field fence.

“Both games have been first-pitch sliders, and that’s quite a nod to Ronnie and the kind of hitter he is,” Olson said. “I haven’t been a starting pitcher in the big leagues, but I know that’s not the normal plan to have to come out and have to pitch around a guy from pitch one.”