The Marlins are in Atlanta to face off against the reigning World Series champions. Last series resulted in a sweep as the Marlins were dominated by the Braves in every single aspect of the game. One play from that is looping in my brain non-stop: the leadoff home run that Ronald Acuña Jr. deposited over the center field fence to start game 3 of the series.
When Acuña connects, he makes sure everybody in the stadium knows about it. This time was no different. On the first pitch of the game he turned around a sinker at 109 MPH off the bat, sending it 442 feet to dead-center. He began his obnoxious strut to first base with his bat still in his hand, took eight steps, then flung his bat in the air. He then proceeded to reenact the LeBron James silencer celebration and bang on his chest before he began jogging.
But wait, there’s more. In an effort to rub it in the Marlins’ face, he imitated Jazz Chisholm’s signature euro-step celebration rounding third base. You could tell he was a little more amped up than usual when he was crossing the plate.
As a fan of the franchise, and baseball in general, you can tell Acuña always turns it up a notch when he’s playing against the Fish. He has hit more home runs (22) versus the Marlins than he has against any other team in the league while having a slash line of .324/.425/.624. No, that’s not a typo: that’s a 1.089 OPS. Are you kidding me? Those are MLB The Show numbers!
The numbers alone don’t tell the full story.
Tension between Acuña and the Marlins began on August 15th, 2018, when he was just coming on the MLB scene as a rookie. He had that incredible streak of 5 consecutive games with a home run, becoming the youngest player to ever do so.
José Ureña decided he would rather plunk Acuña than give up another leadoff bomb, so he did. Ureña threw his signature power sinker at 98 MPH off of the rookie’s elbow. Benches cleared, which led to a shoving battle, and Ureña was ejected. Acuña would have to leave the game to get medical attention, snapping his streak.
Benches clear in Marlins-Braves after José Ureña hits Ronald Acuña Jr. in 1st inning.— MLB (@MLB) August 16, 2018
Acuña Jr. (5 straight games with HR, 3 straight with leadoff HR) exits in 2nd inning. pic.twitter.com/V2aSu97YEX
Later in the season, the Marlins were hosting the Braves in a four-game set. In his second at-bat of the series, he left the building yet again. Crushing a hanging slider from Elieser Hernandez 432 feet, he pimped it before beginning his trot around the bases. His very next trip to the plate? Another heater up and in off of his hands. Acuña would scream in frustration and slam his helmet before making his way to first base.
Fast forward to 2020, after many Acuña home runs and 2 more HBPs, the Marlins would face off with the Braves in the NLDS. To lead off the game, Acuña set the tone with a backside home run off of Sandy Alcantara. Acuña would watch it fly and toss his bat in the air. No surprise, Sandy beaned him in their next matchup with 98 to the front hip. He would proceed to walk to first while chirping at Sandy. In the postgame interview, Sandy states, “If he’s ready to fight, I’m ready to fight.”
It was then that Acuña fired off his most famous tweet known to the Marlins fan base:
They have to hit me , because they don’t get me out— Ronald Acuña Jr (@ronaldacunajr24) October 6, 2020
Shenanigans picked back up the following year. On July 2nd, 2021, Pablo López would hit Acuña to open up the game. López got tossed because of the bad blood between the parties, and so would Don Mattingly. Tough beat losing your pitcher and your manager after one pitch.
Though there have been several instances where Acuña has been hit by Marlins pitchers, it’s hard to tell which ones were intentional. This is a hitter who likes the ball on the outer third. He does get uncomfortable with the ball in on his hands, so it’s a valid strategy to attack him there, even if it means risking occasionally giving him an automatic base.
Let’s see how Acuña performs in the latest chapter of his rivalry against the Fish.