Atlanta Braves rookie outfielder Ronald Acuna has made the opening at-bat of the game appointment viewing. Acuna entered Sunday’s 4-2 loss against the Colorado Rockies with a six-game streak of reaching base safely in the Braves leadoff plate appearance.
Acuna hit a home run last Saturday, walked last Sunday, hit home runs to start both games of Monday’s doubleheader, hit another home run on Tuesday, was hit by a pitch on Wednesday, and hit singles on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
The streak ended Sunday when Acuna flew out to former Georgia Tech standout Charlie Blackmon on a 0-2 pitch.
“You run out of things to say about Ronald after a while,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He came into the season with all these expectations, and he’s met them and then some. Ronald is a special talent.”
Former Braves shortstop Rafael Furcal was the last player to reach base safely as a leadoff hitter in nine consecutive games. He did it in 2009 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“He’s a guy that can hit anywhere in the lineup,” Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “Ronald is so advanced. You can see him adjusting and improving every day. He’s done well hitting leadoff.”
Acuna moved to the top of the lineup on July 20. He entered Sunday with 39 hits in 106 at-bats for a .368 average since the move. Acuna also has 12 home runs, 29 runs, a .442 on-base percentage, and a .792 slugging percentage and eight stolen bases in nine attempts.
He hit .467 with 21 hits and eight home runs during his 11-game hitting streak.
Braves leadoff hitters hit .232 with a .293 on-base percentage in the 94 games before the All-Star break.
Acuna leads the National League in several categories since the All-Star break. His 29 runs scored, .792 slugging percentage and on-base plus slugging is 1.234. Acuna is second in hits with 39 and 12 home runs.
“We knew he was going to be good coming out of spring training, but he’s taking it to another level,” Braves utility man Charlie Culberson said. “He’s special. I’ve played against Mike Trout, and this guy has a lot of the same skills. It’ll be fun to watch him develop.”
WELCOME BACK: Jonny Venters continues to make the comeback story a happy one. The once former, and current Braves reliever, has returned to the bullpen and has been successful. Venters recorded two outs in the eighth inning on Saturday for a hold.
He hasn’t allowed a run in 7.2 innings over nine appearances since returning to the Braves. Venters is 2-1 with 2.49 ERA in 31 games this season.
“He’s been great, and it’s amazing that he can pitch at all considering that he’s had three Tommy John surgeries,” Snitker said. “I’m glad he’s on our team.”
BACK IN THE GROOVE: Former Marietta High School standout Dansby Swanson sat on Sunday, but he’s been improving offensively. Swanson is on a five-game hitting streak. He’s hitting .333 with six hits in 18 at-bats. The shortstop has also hit in seven of his last eight games, batting .296 (8-for-27) with two homers and eight RBI.
“I want to contribute,” Swanson said. “It’s good to get hits and help the team win.”
UNWANTED BROOM: Sunday’s loss capped a series sweep by the Rockies. It’s the first Colorado sweep in Atlanta since 1998, and the first four-game sweep of the Braves since July, 21-24 2016, at Coors Field.
The Braves four-game losing streak follows a five-game winning streak and ends an 11-game homestand with a 6-5 record. The loss marks the Braves' third four-game losing streak of the season.
In spite of a series that saw the Braves lose three leads, including one in the ninth inning, the team still leads the N.L East and is confident that it can withstand the adversity.
“We started out so good on this homestand for it to end it like this,” Snitker said. “No, it doesn’t feel good, but we gotta regroup and start another win streak tomorrow.”
“This is one of those things when one thing goes your way and the next thing you know we’re winning three games in the series,” Freeman said. “But we gotta rebound quickly and get on the Pirates (today).”