Acuña (4-for-4, 2 HRs) 'amazing to watch'

August 10th, 2020

had his finest day of the season, but it was his preseason pick for the National League MVP Award who really stole the show as the Braves swept a seven-inning doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday.

"I don't think Ronald [Acuña Jr.] needed anybody else on his team today," Freeman said. "He took care of everything today. He's pretty amazing to watch. He's a talent that doesn't come around in this game. It seems like he does more special things every year. You could tell he was about to get hot."

Acuña quadrupled his season home run total as he went deep three times on the day, including twice during the Braves' 8-0 win over the Phillies in Game 2. His fifth-inning go-ahead homer sparked Atlanta to a 5-2 win in the first game.

"I just knew it was a matter of time," Braves starting pitcher said. "I've watched Ronald enough to where you can never count him out. Those swings were pretty special, especially in the second game."

Nobody was counting Acuña out. The 22-year-old superstar simply struggled during the season's first week and consequently entered Sunday with one home run, one stolen base and a .710 OPS through 68 plate appearances. There certainly wasn't reason to panic, but there was a desire to be reintroduced to the excitement he regularly created while finishing three steals shy of a 40-40 season last year.

So the Braves are hoping this was the start of one of the impressive stretches Acuña has proven he can construct. The young outfielder provided a much-needed spark with the two-run homer he lined down the left-field line off Deolis Guerra in the first game. That homer snapped Atlanta's 13-inning scoreless streak and fueled what was a decisive five-run fifth inning.

As for the Game 2 win, some of the credit goes to Freeman, whose opposite-field, two-run homer blemished Phillies top pitching prospect Spencer Howard's debut. That third-inning blast highlighted a day during which the veteran first baseman went 6-for-10 and collected four of his nine extra-base hits tallied so far this year. He finished a single shy of the cycle in the second game.

There's also reason to once again acknowledge Fried, who completed his five scoreless innings by getting Bryce Harper to fly out with the bases loaded. About five minutes later, Acuña capped his fourth career multihomer game with an opposite-field shot off right-handed reliever Trevor Kelley.

The 369-foot homer off Kelley was impressive, but not quite as majestic as the 377-foot opposite-field blast Acuña had hit against Howard in the fifth inning.

"We've been talking for a week now about Ronald," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "You could see signs of him coming. He was hitting those balls like a left-handed pull hitter. They just kept carrying."

Freeman arrived at the ballpark early Sunday morning hitting .200 with a .713 OPS through 60 plate appearances and exited hitting .276 with a .934 OPS. But he was as excited to point out his preseason MVP is also once again looking good after Acuña raised his OPS from .710 to .913 within about six hours.

"I still like [the prediction," Freeman said. "It's about to get real fun for everyone to watch this unfold. Those numbers are going to go up real fast."