Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023|
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ATLANTA — Ronald Acuña Jr. was excited that the Atlanta Braves appeared to be at full strength as they attempt to win a fifth straight division title.
Not so fast.
Second baseman Ozzie Albies, one of Acuña’s close friends on the team, suffered a broken finger and will miss the rest of the regular season, if not more.
“Obviously it’s great that we got the win — that’s the most important thing — but it’s really sad that Ozzie hurt himself again,” Acuña via a translator. “We need him. Like I said, it’s really sad.”
Acuña homered and drove in four runs off Aaron Nola and flashed some fancy defense in right field, lifting the Braves to a 4-3 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday night.
The victory was dampened because of a broken right pinky finger sustained by Albies, who was injured sliding head-first safely into second base in the fourth inning. Albies, a two-time All-Star, had just returned from an 81-game absence Friday because of a broken left foot.
“I hate it for him because my heart breaks for him,” manager Brian Snitker said. “After everything he went through to get back here and then have that happen, God it’s horrible for him. He was having so much fun, being the old Oz, playing ball. What he loves to do.”
Acuña went deep for the second straight game, making it 2-0 in the third and tagging Nola for a two-run double in the fourth. He ran forward and stretched out to strand the bases loaded by robbing Bryce Harper of extra bases in the fifth with Atlanta leading 4-0.
“Things going to back to normal,” Acuña said. “I hope to keep feeling good.”
Atlanta improved to 67-28 since June 1, best in the majors over that span. The defending World Series champion Braves remained one game behind the New York Mets in the NL East. They have won seven straight at home.
The Phillies are 59-34 since June 1, the fifth-best winning percentage over that same span, but they lost their third straight after winning five in a row.
Nola (9-12) retired five of the first six batters he faced, the only blemish a one-out double by Travis d’Arnaud in the second, but he walked Albies to begin the third and paid for it when Acuña hit an opposite-field shot 427 feet to right-center. Nola escaped further damage when he got Michael Harris II to fly out to strand the bases loaded.
He ran into more trouble in the fourth. William Contreras and Albies began with singles and advanced on a flyout before Acuña made it 4-0 with a double down the left-field line. Albies stayed in the game to run the bases but left in the top of the fifth when Vaughn Grissom took over at second.
“I had guys on base in the third and fourth inning and Ronald hit a fastball away opposite-field,” Nola said. “He put a good swing on it. Those two innings there, I hurt myself letting the leadoff guy get on. Other than that, I felt pretty good.”
Nola, making his 200th career start, set down his last 11 hitters — striking out the last three. He gave up four runs and seven hits with eight strikeouts in seven innings.
“It was a battle all night long,” Philadelphia interim manager Rob Thomson said. “He kept going. Seven solid innings. He kept us in the game. Fought like hell, and I’m proud of him.”
The Phillies scored to make it 4-1 in the fifth against Atlanta starter Jake Odorizzi when Bryson Stott walked, advanced to third on a single and crossed the plate on Matt Vierling’s sacrifice fly, sliding head-first across the plate to narrowly beat Acuña’s throw. Dylan Lee (4-1) gave up Kyle Schwarber’s single and walked Alec Bohm to load the bases for Harper, but Acuña ended the threat with his nifty catch.
Philadelphia trimmed the lead to 4-2 in the seventh when Stott singled off Collin McHugh and scored from first on Vierling’s double. The Phillies made it 4-3 in the eighth against Raisel Iglesias on Bryson Stott’s RBI.
Braves closer Kenley Jansen faced the minimum in the ninth for his 34th save in 41 chances.
Odorizzi retired the first 10 batters he faced with five strikeouts. He gave up two hits and one run in 4 2/3 innings.
The Braves have won 10 of their last 13 games against Philadelphia at home, outscoring the Phillies 71-43. Overall the Braves are 31-17 against Philadelphia at Truist Park, which opened in 2017.
But they’ll have to move forward without Albies.
“He means a lot,” Acuña said. “He’s a leader on this team. We need him. I’m just really sad for what happened.”
Phillies: RHP Zack Wheeler will start Wednesday against Toronto as he returns from forearm tendinitis. … 1B Rhys Hoskins took batting practice in the cage and grounders to test his sore right hand. Interim manager Rob Thomson said he would be available to pinch-hit if the swelling went down, but Hoskins wasn’t needed. Thomson anticipates Hoskins will be back in the lineup Sunday. … INF Edmundo Sosa (hamstring) is expected to spend three weeks on the injured list.
LOTS OF FANS
The Braves announced a crowd of 42,542, the 37th sellout of the season.
Braves RHP Spencer Strider (10-5, 2.72 ERA) will face Phillies LHP Bailey Falter (5-3, 3.80) as the teams conclude a three-game series.
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