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Wiedmer: Is Acuna Injury Too Much For Braves To Overcome?

  • Monday, May 27, 2024
  • Mark Wiedmer
Mark Wiedmer
Mark Wiedmer

A lot of big, important questions are swirling around this Memorial Day Weekend.

Can Global Warming be stopped?

Are wedding bells in the future for Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce?

Is there enough Geritol on the planet to keep either Joe Biden or Donald Trump energized for four more years?

But one question hovers above all others here in Braves Country: What did our baseball heroes do to deserve the injury epidemic that’s cursed this season from the opening day forward?

The latest and most serious threat to a seventh straight Atlanta postseason run came Sunday, when Ronald Acuna Jr.

_ past season’s National League MVP - was lost for the rest of this season with a torn ACL in his left knee. Acuna had been struggling all year by his lofty standards - a .250 batting average with just four homers and 15 RBI through 49 games, but he has traditionally heated up after June 1 and there was hope for another sizzling summer performance this time.

To put one of those stats in further perspective, Acuna hit his fourth home run a year ago on April 26, a full month ahead of where he stood this season on the day he was injured.

Furthermore, a season that began with catcher Seam Murphy being sidelined on opening day with an oblique injury that has kept him out of the lineup until at least this week, along with All-Star power pitcher Spencer Strider being lost for the year on April 13 to elbow surgery, continues its downhill trajectory.

And did we mention that third baseman Austin Riley is currently day-to-day with something known as an intercostal strain?

Maybe Murphy’s Law - anything that can go wrong will go wrong - was named for Sean Murphy.

In a way, given all this bad news, it’s almost a miracle that Atlanta currently stands 10 games over .500 (30-20), tied with the Dodgers for the second best record by percentage (.600) despite losing six of their last 10 heading into this afternoon’s visit from the Washington Nationals.

Somewhat amazingly,after the Braves led the league in offense last year, tying a major league record with 307 home runs, it’s an old Atlanta constant - pitching - that’s kept the Braves competitive this time around.

With the offseason acquisition of Chris Sale and the free agent signing of Reynaldo Lopez, Atlanta has been able to win 30 games to date despite a somewhat erratic bullpen and an offense that currently stands seventh in the National League in scoring, though the Bravos are third in run differential behind only the NL East-leading Phillies and the West-leading Dodgers.

Thanks to Sale, Lopez and Max Fried, the Braves actually lead the NL in runs allowed, having surrendered just 185 to Philly’s 196.

And should that trend continue, and the hitting pick up just a bit, the Braves could still reach the postseason, though it’s doubtful they’ll win the East, given the Phillies’ torrid start.

Still, as first baseman Matt Olson told MLB.com over the weekend about the club’s hitting woes, “I’ve always said hitting is contagious. It was contagious when we were all squaring balls up last year. Sometimes, it can be contagious the other way, too. You just need a couple of balls barrelled back to back and you have a big inning, and there you go.”

A year ago, Olson belted a franchise-best 54 homers with a .604 slugging percentage. This year he’s clubbed but seven homers with a .396 slugging percentage. If he’s right that hitting is contagious, may he catch that bug soon.

There is one bit of recent history that Braves Country should cling to for hope. When Atlanta won it all in 2021, it did so with Acuna on the sidelines due to his right knee injury.

If the Bravos somehow repeat that history by bringing a third world championship to the Big Peach this fall, one suspects the trials and tribulations of this season will be quickly forgotten with a parade down Peachtree Street. Or through Smyrna.

* * *

Mark Wiedmer can be reached at mwiedmer@mccallie.org

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