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Braves Even Season Series; Acuña Jr. Tears ACL

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MLB: Atlanta Braves at Miami Marlins Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Marlins fell to the Braves 5-4 on Saturday, a loss that now evens the season series between the NL East rivals 6-6.

The story of the game happened in the fifth inning when Jazz Chisholm Jr. lined a ball into right field just out of the reach of Ronald Acuña Jr. As the Braves’ star right fielder landed, his knee looked to buckle and he fell to the ground. Chisholm Jr. would come around to score an inside the park home run as Acuña Jr. was unable to get back to his feet and the ball sat in right field.

Acuña Jr. was down for a good while in right field. He attempted to walk off on his own power, but was unable to do so and had to sit down surrounded by his teammates and trainers in right field. Acuña Jr. was eventually carted off in tears. It was a crushing scene to watch one of the game’s great players leave the field in such an emotional way.

Chisholm Jr. has built a pretty good relationship early on his career and he said it was hard to see his home run come at the expense of his friend.

“I was feeling kind of upset,” Chisholm Jr. said. “Before the game we were talking about who would hit a homer, so for it to come at that expense it sucks for me and him...the baseball world is gonna miss him if he’s out for long,” Chisholm Jr. said.

An MRI after the game confirmed a complete tear of the right ACL for Acuña Jr., per the Braves. He will undergo season-ending surgery and is expected to miss 9-10 months, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

The game understandably seemed to get away from the Braves for a second in the wake of the injury as starter Max Fried allowed three straight singles. However, he would settle in and strike out Jon Berti and Jorge Alfaro with the bases loaded to keep the lead at 5-3.

“That one stings you a little bit,” manager Don Mattingly said about coming up empty in that spot.

The game screeched to a halt after that, as 20 straight combined hitters were retired after the Braves had a pair of runners on in the sixth. Zach Pop, Richard Bleier, Dylan Floro and Yimi Garcia combined to keep the Braves off the board in four innings of work.

Magneuris Sierra would single and end the drought for both teams to lead off the ninth. Chisholm Jr. would drive him in with an RBI single. Garrett Cooper came to the plate representing the winning run, and put a charge into a ball that died at the wall for the final out. Mattingly said postgame he thought it was gone.

“He it good and it got small quick,” Mattingly said.

The game began with Marlins getting two on with two outs in the first inning after a single by Cooper and a double from Adam Duvall. However, they would waste the opportunity to take an early lead as Jesús Aguilar flew out to right to end the threat.

The Braves opened the scoring in the third inning with an RBI single into center field by Freddie Freeman that scored Jonathan Lucroy. Lucroy walked to lead-off the inning, and advanced to second on a thrown away pick-off attempt.

The Marlins would threaten again with two outs in the fourth inning, but this time they would come through. Rojas singled with one out, then Cooper worked a two-out walk. Duvall stepped to the plate and delivered a two-run base hit to give the Marlins a 2-1 lead. Duvall now has 19 HR and 62 RBI before the All-Star break.

The Marlins lead would not last long as the Braves would get to Trevor Rogers in the fourth. Austin Riley doubled to lead off the inning, then scored on a base hit by Orlando Arcia. Dansby Swanson’s double would get Arcia to third, who then scored on a sac-fly by Guillermo Heredia. Rogers would strike out Lucroy and Fried to end the inning and keep the deficit at just one.

Rogers would last just four innings as he hit 81 pitches and the Marlins want to limit his pitch count going into the break. A Marlins starter has not lasted more than six innings since Zach Thompson last Sunday in Atlanta.

Rogers finishes the first half of the season with a 2.31 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 122 K in 101.1 IP. He will be heading to Colorado as the lone Marlins representative in the 2021 All-Star Game. Mattingly said he assumes he would be available to pitch an inning in the game, and he’s sure Rogers wants to pitch.

Rogers has not been as dominant towards the end of the first half as Marlins fan had become accustomed to, and Mattingly says it may be a result of guys adjusting to the rookie.

“It’s not Trevor Rogers ‘Rookie’ anymore, it’s Trevor Rogers ‘All-Star’,” Mattingly said.

David Hess would take over in the fifth and things got away from the Marlins. After Hess let up a lead-off double to Acuña Jr., Freeman would follow with his second homer in as many nights to stretch the lead to 5-2.

Starling Marte was scratched from the lineup before the game due to a personal issue. Adam Duvall was removed from the game in the fifth inning with mild intercostal soreness. Mattingly said he feels Marte will be available on Sunday, but Duvall’s status is a little more uncertain.

The Marlins need a win Sunday to avoid getting swept before the All-Star Break.