Marquez, LeMahieu help Rockies complete sweep of Braves

ATLANTA (AP) — DJ LeMahieu and the Colorado Rockies are quite comfortable on the road. Even against baseball’s best teams.

Colorado Rockies left fielder Gerardo Parra, left, celebrate a win with relief pitcher Wade Davis (71) at the conclusion of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Sunday, Aug. 19, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Todd Kirkland)

LeMahieu homered, German Marquez pitched seven solid innings and the Rockies closed out their first four-game sweep in Atlanta with a 4-2 victory over the Braves on Sunday.

Colorado improved to 30-16 since June 26, and each of those 46 games came against teams with winning records at the time. The Rockies are 8-2 in their last 10 games against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston and Atlanta, facing the Astros and Braves on the road.

“Yeah, it’s tough teams but we’re definitely not nervous or scared to play anyone with our team,” LeMahieu said. “We all know we have a really good team here. It makes it easy to show up at the park.”

LeMahieu put Colorado in front with his third-inning drive to left field . He has hit nine of his 11 homers on the road, including a tiebreaking solo shot in the 10th inning of Saturday night’s 5-3 win.

“No explanation,” LeMahieu said when asked about his road success. “Just kind of random, I guess.”

Rockies manager Bud Black said his team, battling Arizona for the NL West lead, is playing “good, all-around clean baseball,” but still can hit better.

Atlanta’s four straight losses, tied for its longest streak of the season, followed a five-game winning streak.

“In this business, every time you think you have something figured out, you get kicked right in the teeth,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.

Marquez (11-9) won his fourth straight road decision. He allowed two runs and five hits, struck out five and walked one.

“Hopefully we can keep this rolling all the way to the World Series,” Marquez said through a translator.

Marquez allowed a run in the first when Freddie Freeman doubled and scored on Johan Camargo’s single. He then threw four straight scoreless innings before Camargo’s single in the sixth drove in Freeman again.

Trevor Story led off the second with a tying homer off Atlanta’s Anibal Sanchez (6-4) into the Colorado bullpen behind the left-field wall.

Following LeMahieu’s homer in the third, David Dahl doubled and scored on Nolan Arenado’s single.

Sanchez struck out eight in 6 2/3 innings. He was charged with three runs and five hits.

Wade Davis gave up a one-out single to Inciarte but had three strikeouts in the ninth for his NL-leading 35th save.

Colorado’s only previous sweep in Atlanta was a three-game series from Sept. 12-14, 1997.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rockies: LHP Mike Dunn (left shoulder inflammation) will begin a rehab assignment on Tuesday with Triple-A Albuquerque. He has been out since July 7. “It’s going to be a lengthy rehab assignment,” Black said, adding Dunn will need “multiple outings.”

Braves: LHP Sam Freeman (left shoulder inflammation) was activated off the 10-day disabled list. LHP Kolby Allard was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett.

STREAKS END

Braves rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. was 0 for 4, ending his 11-game hitting streak. His team-record streak of reaching safely in nine consecutive plate appearances leading off a game also ended with his fly ball to center in the first.

WEST WOES

The Braves fell to 9-18 against the NL West this season. They are 40-19 against NL East teams.

ROAD KINGS

The Rockies improved to 37-29 away from Coors Field. They have won their last four series in Atlanta; the Braves won two of three in Colorado from April 6-8.

UP NEXT

Rockies: LHP Tyler Anderson (6-5, 4.39 ERA) tries to bounce from a rough outing at Houston when he gets the ball in the opener of a three-game series against visiting San Diego on Tuesday night. The Rockies are 16-5 at home since July 2.

Braves: RHP Kevin Gausman (7-9, 4.22 ERA) starts when Atlanta opens a seven-game road trip at Pittsburgh on Monday night.

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Rockies score 3 in 9th, LeMahieu HR in 10th tops Braves 5-3

ATLANTA (AP) — After four at-bats, DJ LeMahieu was still looking for his first hit and felt he hadn’t made good contact.

Atlanta Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. reacts at second base after hitting a sharp line drive to centerfield for a double against the Colorado Rockies during the fifth inning of a baseball game Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)

He was just saving his best swing for extra innings.

The Colorado Rockies struck for three runs with two outs in the ninth inning before LeMahieu homered over the center field wall in the 10th Saturday night in a 5-3 win over the Atlanta Braves.

LeMahieu’s drive off Luke Jackson cleared the 400-foot mark — the deepest part of the park.

“I hadn’t really hit the ball hard all night,” he said. “I was just trying to get on base.”

Carlos Gonzalez followed with a double and scored on Nolan Arenado’s single to complete a frustrating blown save for fill-in closer A.J. Minter.

Minter came in with a 3-0 lead to begin the ninth and retired the first two Colorado batters. But the Rockies followed with four straight hits, including a two-run double by Ian Desmond and a tying single by pinch-hitter Gerardo Parra.

Minter has been Atlanta’s closer since Arodys Vizcaino went on the disabled list last month with shoulder trouble.

Braves trainer George Poulis visited Minter on the mound early in the ninth to examine a cut on Minter’s left thumb. Minter said a fingernail caused the cut on his second pitch.

“It had nothing to do with the outcome of the game,” Minter said, adding the blown save was “just pretty pathetic on my part. My job was to come in and get three outs, especially in a three-run game, and I didn’t get the job done.”

Braves manager Brian Snitker described Minter, a rookie, as “still a work in progress” while mastering the command of pitches.

“It hasn’t been great for a few outings, really,” Snitker said. “He has continued to make pitches and not give in and get through it.”

LeMahieu hit his 10th homer with one out in the 10th off Jackson (1-1).

The Braves stranded a runner at third base in the ninth when Adam Ottavino (5-2) struck out Dansby Swanson to end the inning. Wade Davis pitched the 10th for his 34th save.

The Rockies have won the first three games of the four-game series to stay close to NL West-leading Arizona.

The NL East-leading Braves remained one-half game ahead of second-place Philadelphia.

Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz gave up four hits in seven innings and struck out nine.

Nick Markakis drove in two runs with a bases-loaded single off Antonio Senzatela with two outs in the third inning. Ronald Acuna Jr. had three hits and a walk, scored twice and stole a base. Acuna singled, stole second and scored on Freddie Freeman’s single off Bryan Shaw in the eighth.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rockies: INF Pat Valaika was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque to clear a roster spot for Senzatela, who had been on the 10-day disabled list since Aug. 5 with right shoulder inflammation.

Braves: Snitker said LHP Max Fried (left groin strain) will make another rehab start before he’s able to return to Atlanta. He allowed three earned runs in 4 1/3 innings for Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday.

LEADOFF MAGIC

Acuna extended his Atlanta franchise-record streak to reaching safely in nine consecutive plate appearances leading off a game when he singled in the first inning. He has four homers, three singles, one walk and a hit by pitch when leading off games over that span.

RECORD CROWD

There was occasional light rain but no delay following an afternoon of sometimes heavy downpours. Despite the threatening weather, the sellout of 42,143 set a SunTrust Park record.

UP NEXT

Rockies: RHP German Marquez (10-9, 4.51) is coming off a win over Justin Verlander and the Astros in Houston on Tuesday. He is 5-1 with a 2.91 ERA since June 30 and is 3-0 with a 2.73 ERA in his last five road starts.

Braves: RHP Anibal Sanchez (6-3, 3.07) will try to extend his perfect career record against the Rockies. Sanchez is 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA in six career starts against Colorado.

Braves’ rookie Acuna back in lineup, fails to homer in loss

ATLANTA (AP) — Rookie star Ronald Acuna Jr. was back in the lineup for the Atlanta Braves on Thursday, one day after being plunked in the left arm with a pitch that sparked a national debate about whether it’s ever acceptable to throw at a hitter intentionally.

Atlanta Bravess Ronald Acuna Jr. reacts as Dansby Swanson (7) scores on a Julio Terheran base hit during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Colorado Rockies on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, in Atlanta. The Rockies won 5-3. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Acuna said his elbow felt fine less than 24 hours after he took a 97 mph fastball from Miami’s Jose Urena .

Major League Baseball doled out a six-game suspension to the Marlins pitcher.

In the opener of an important four-game series against the Colorado Rockies, Acuna received a standing ovation from the crowd at SunTrust Park. He playfully patted umpire Pat Hoberg on his way to the plate and started the bottom of the first with a sharp single up the middle.

The 20-year-old phenom finished 1 for 4, snapping a streak of five straight games with a homer that tied a franchise record. In his final chance to set a mark all his own, Acuna lined out to right in the eighth. The Rockies rallied for three unearned runs in the ninth to beat the Braves 5-3, shaving Atlanta’s NL East lead to 1½ games over Philadelphia.

As a precaution, Acuna wore a red protective pad on his left arm.

“Obviously, it was kind of a hard hit,” Acuna said through a translator after taking an early session of batting practice at SunTrust Park . “But I’m not feeling any pain and I feel good right now.”

The Braves breathed a big sigh of relief, knowing what a significant injury would have meant to their postseason chances.

Acuna tried to stay in the game after being hit by Urena’s first pitch Wednesday, but he had to leave in the second inning . X-rays taken shortly afterward were negative, and the Braves also ordered a CT scan to make sure their prized rookie was OK. The scan came back normal, and Acuna was cleared to play.

With help from multilingual teammate Ender Inciarte, Acuna even crafted a text to Brian Snitker letting the Braves manager know he was ready to go.

Snitker, who was ejected the previous night along with Urena for leading a charge from the Atlanta dugout, was clearly relieved.

“It’s nice to be 20 and strong,” the manager said with a smile. “I’m as excited as I can be that he gets to go out there and play today.”

Acuna has lived up to the hype since being called up by the Braves early in the season. In recent days, he’s been downright unstoppable with homers in five straight games — including leadoff shots in three straight games before he was struck by Urena’s pitch.

The five-game homer streak remained intact under baseball rules because Acuna didn’t have an official at-bat in the finale of the series against the Marlins, which was won by the Braves to complete a four-game sweep . In a quirk of baseball scoring, the leadoff streak ended.

Now, both streaks are over.

Acuna failed in his bid to become the first Braves player in the modern era to homer in six straight games. The major league record is eight in a row, shared by Ken Griffey Jr. (1993), Don Mattingly (1987) and Dale Long (1956).

While Urena insisted he was merely trying to pitch inside to set up Acuna for an outside pitch , Snitker was livid about the incident. The manager said he had no doubt about the Miami right-hander’s intent: It was intentional.

“Absolutely,” Snitker said. “Just watching it, I can tell.”

It’s long been an unwritten rule in baseball that a hot hitter can expect to be brushed back. Former first baseman Keith Hernandez, now a New York Mets broadcaster, took it a step further by saying the Marlins had every right to bean Acuna under the circumstances .

“You’ve lost three games. He’s hit three homers. You’ve got to hit him,” Hernandez said during the Mets-Orioles game. “I’m sorry. People are not going to like that, but you’ve got to hit him.”

Snitker scoffed at Hernandez’s logic.

“I don’t buy that at all,” the Braves manager said. “I would not ever begrudge somebody for doing the job they’re trying to do. You don’t want him to hit hitters? Pitch better.”

Joe Torre, MLB’s chief disciplinary officer, imposed a suspension that would begin Friday unless Urena appeals. The pitcher would have to push back a scheduled start but could make his return against the Braves; the NL East rivals meet in another four-game series at Miami beginning next Thursday.

An appeal would likely push back Urena’s next appearance against the Braves to 2019.

Torre also handed Braves first base coach Eric Young a one-game suspension for his actions during the melee after both dugouts emptied. Young accepted the punishment and missed Thursday’s game.

Colorado manager Bud Black said there will always be a fine line between pitching inside and hitting a batter intentionally.

“Hitting home runs is part of the game, right? Hitters are trying to hit the ball hard. Pitchers are trying to do everything they can to keep hitters from hitting,” said Black, a former pitcher. “A lot of that is disrupting timing, a lot of that is throwing the ball down and away — tough to hit a homer down there — and some of that is pitching inside aggressively to keep guys from looking out over the plate.”

Acuna has really flourished since moving into the leadoff spot right after the All-Star break. He raised his average to .287 with 19 homers, 43 RBIs and nine stolen bases, igniting the Braves with his enthusiasm and seemingly boundless energy while making sure never to show up an opponent.

“I feel he’s respecting the game,” Inciarte said. “You don’t want to see anybody getting hit for no reason.”

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Swanson fills void after Acuna’s exit as Braves top Marlins

ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Braves and their manager had plenty of reasons to be unhappy even after completing their first four-game sweep of the Miami Marlins since 2006.

Atlanta Braves’ Dansby Swanson is congratulated in the dugout after hitting a two-run home run during the fourth inning against the Miami Marlins in a baseball game Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Seeing slugging rookie Ronald Acuna Jr., who had been on a home-run streak, hit by Jose Urena’s first pitch led to two melees on the field and more unrest in the clubhouse.

Dansby Swanson filled the power void left by Acuna’s exit, hitting a two-run homer that led the Braves to a 5-2 win over Miami on Wednesday night.

Acuna, who had hit leadoff homers in the last three games and homered in five straight games overall, didn’t get a chance to extend the streak. Urena plunked him on the left elbow with a fastball.

The Braves said X-rays on the elbow were negative and results of further tests would be announced on Thursday.

Benches and bullpens for both teams emptied onto the field twice after the pitch. No punches were thrown. Urena and Braves manager Brian Snitker were ejected.

“He’s been swinging the ball incredibly well, obviously,” Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said of Acuna. “It just makes no sense. It was just completely classless on Jose Urena’s part.”

Snitker, Freeman and other Braves players believe Urena intended to hit Acuna. Marlins manager Don Mattingly said the umpires also believed Urena tried to hit the Braves rookie, but Mattingly was upset his pitcher was not ejected until Snitker came on the field for the second time.

“If you think he’s done it on purpose, then throw him out right away,” Mattingly said.

Urena said he was only trying to throw the pitch inside.

“I made the bad pitch,” Urena said. “I missed my spot inside on the corner the way I wanted to start with him. I tried to get inside to move him.”

Paul Nauert, the third-base umpire and crew chief, said the decision to eject Urena was delayed because “we wanted to make sure as a crew we were all on the same page. … When we got together as a crew, it was decided by the crew that yes, he should have been ejected. So that’s what we did.”

An angry Snitker was near the front of the line of Braves players charging out of the dugout toward the mound. His emotions started to rise again following the game.

“I’m not sure I’ve ever felt like that in a baseball uniform,” Snitker said, adding Acuna “didn’t deserve that. … I’ve had three hours to calm down and all of a sudden I’m not real good right now.”

Acuna became the 11th batter to be hit by a pitch from Urena this season, tied for the most in the National League.

Acuna left the game in the second inning. He took his position in left field and then walked off the field. Snitker said Acuna had cramping in his forearm when he left the game.

Because he was forced from the game after being hit by the pitch in his only plate appearance, Acuna will be eligible to continue his three-game streak of leadoff homers in his next game.

Kevin Gausman (7-9) allowed two runs in six innings. A.J. Minter pitched a perfect ninth for his 11th save in 12 opportunities.

Elieser Hernandez, who replaced Urena, allowed two hits in three scoreless innings.

The Braves trailed 2-0 before scoring three runs off left-hander Jarlin Garcia (1-2) in the fourth. Charlie Culberson, who doubled, scored from third on Ender Inciarte’s grounder to first base. After Tyler Flowers walked, Swanson cleared the center field wall with his 10th homer.

Culberson had three hits, including two doubles. Inciarte, who had a run-scoring single in the sixth, drove in two runs.

Starlin Castro led off Miami’s fourth with his 10th homer into the seats in right field.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Braves LHP Max Fried, on the 10-day disabled list with a left groin strain, will make a rehab start for Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday — “quicker than we originally thought,” Snitker said. … LHP Sam Freeman (left shoulder inflammation) threw a scoreless inning for Gwinnett on Tuesday and is scheduled to throw again on Thursday.

STREAKING

The NL East-leading Braves remained two games ahead of Philadelphia. They have won five straight after completing their first four-game sweep of the Marlins since May 15-18, 2006 at Turner Field.

The last-place Marlins have lost five straight and eight of nine.

BIG LEAGUE DEBUT

Miami left fielder Austin Dean, a 2012 fourth-round draft pick called up from Triple-A New Orleans before the game, was held without a hit in his major league debut.

UP NEXT

Marlins: Miami, off Thursday, opens a weekend series at slumping Washington on Friday night. RHP Dan Straily (4-5. 4.42) has a 3.86 ERA in two starts against the Nationals this season.

Braves: RHP Julio Teheran (8-7, 4.33) will look to continue his success against the Rockies in Thursday night’s opener of a four-game series. Teheran is 5-1 with a 2.21 ERA in nine career starts against Colorado.

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Column: Suspend Urena for rest of season for plunking Acuna

ATLANTA (AP) — Ronald Acuna Jr. is good for baseball.

Atlanta Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr., right, reacts after being hit by a pitch from Miami Marlins’Jose Urena during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday , Aug. 15, 2018 in Atlanta. Both dugouts emptied and Urena was ejected. Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto is at rear. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Jose Urena and his defenders are not.

Jose, take the rest of the season off.

And while you’re at it, take Keith Hernandez with you.

In a nod to the bad ol’ days when it was apparently acceptable to plunk a guy who was playing too well, Urena unleashed a 97 mph fastball to Acuna’s left forearm with his very first pitch of Wednesday night’s game in Atlanta .

Fortunately, it appears Acuna escaped serious injury. The Braves said X-rays on his elbow were negative and results of further tests would be announced on Thursday.

Nevertheless, Major League Baseball should act swiftly to show that this sort of barbarism will not be tolerated in the national pastime.

Urena deserves to be suspended for the rest of the season.

Nothing less.

Urena apparently thought it was perfectly acceptable to assault — hey, let’s call it what it was — one of the game’s shining young stars, a 20-year-old who plays the game with pure joy and great skill for the first-place Braves.

Acuna’s crime?

Going deep four times in the previous three games against the woeful Miami Marlins (and homering in five straight games overall), a remarkable run that included one of baseball’s rarest feats — a pair of leadoff homers in Monday’s doubleheader sweep by Atlanta.

Acuna started Tuesday’s game with his third straight leadoff homer.

Urena made sure the streak didn’t reach four before the Marlins left town.

Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker argues with the umpiring crew after Ronald Acuna Jr was hit by a pitch from Miami Marlins starting pitcher Jose Urena during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday , Aug. 15, 2018 in Atlanta. Urena was ejected. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

“This young man is just playing the game, doing what he loves to do,” said Brian Snitker, the Braves’ manager. “It’s a damn shame.”

Urena was ejected. So was Snitker for leading his team onto the field to confront the Miami pitcher.

After the game, won by the Braves 5-2 to complete a four-game sweep, the manager was still fuming.

“It’s beyond … I don’t know,” Snitker said, struggling to find words in the non-profanity category. “I’ve had three hours to calm down and all of a sudden I’m not real good right now.”

Snitker’s counterpart, Miami manager Don Mattingly, hardly came to his pitcher’s defense .

“This kid’s swinging the bat good. We’ve got to figure out how to get him out,” Mattingly said. “That’s what we said to Jose. I don’t want to see this kid get hit. He’s a great player. He’s going to be great for a long time. He’s beat us up. But this is not the way we want to handle that situation.”

He wasn’t the least bit surprised that Snitker and his players came storming out of the dugout.

“I understand,” Mattingly said. “If we were on the other side and our guy was hitting homers all over the place and that happens, you’re going to be fired up.”

Laughably, and with a completely straight face, Urena tried to make himself out as the real victim in all this .

“It seems like people get upset and things like that,” he said. “But I get upset, too. I’ve got to wait five days to just go out there, make one pitch and get kicked out of the game? That don’t make sense.”

Actually, it makes perfect sense.

Now, baseball must take it to the next level.

Instead of a typical suspension that might cost Urena a start or two, the lords of discipline at MLB need to really bring the hammer down. Send a message, once and for all, that this sort of Neanderthal-like behavior will no longer be tolerated.

Even if the players’ union appeals, even if it succeeds in overturning a rest-of-the-season ban, baseball would be sending a much-needed message and, hopefully, sparking a long-overdue dialogue to stamp out this sort of brutality.

It won’t be easy.

Hernandez, a former All-Star first baseman and NL MVP who now works as a New York Mets broadcaster, quickly threw his support to Urena based on that ridiculous code of ethics passed down through the ages , the one that supposedly allows a pitcher to take the law into his own hands when a guy keeps hitting the ball into the seats.

“You’ve lost three games. He’s hit three homers. You’ve got to hit him,” Hernandez said during the Mets-Orioles game, sounding like someone who needs to be led gently into a pasture and left there. “I’m sorry. People are not going to like that, but you’ve got to hit him. Knock him down (at least). I mean, seriously knock him down if you don’t hit him.”

Then, stressing there’s a proper way to carry out this painful but necessary justice, Hernandez offered a caveat.

“Never throw at anybody’s head,” he said, delivering a spot-on impression of that crazy uncle going on some nonsensical rant around the Thanksgiving table while everyone else stares at their food in uncomfortable silence. “Never throw at anybody’s head or neck. Hit him in the back. Hit him in the fanny.”

Here’s the thing:

Maybe that’s what Urena was trying to do — hit Acuna in the back or fanny, as was so eloquently stated in The World According To Keith. But sometimes, a guy throwing a baseball almost 100 mph doesn’t put it exactly where he wants. Or maybe the batter reacts in a way that the pitcher wasn’t expecting, ducking into a pitch instead of leaping away. All of which points to the ludicrousness of anyone, even someone such as Hernandez who spent 17 years in the big leagues, trying to brush this off as just part of the game.

Urena claimed he was merely trying to work inside against Acuna, apparently relying on the fact that he’s hit 11 batters overall this season, tied for the most in the National League.

“I try to get something inside and move his feet,” the right-hander insisted. “Then we can go back outside, because he’s been hot.”

Once MLB dismisses that ludicrous defense — Urena’s defiant reaction on the mound hardly indicated that the pitch got away and he was really, really sorry about it — there’s another issue to consider.

Baseball isn’t exactly flourishing at the moment, especially with young people.

A thrilling player such as Acuna could help to reverse that trend, but not if he has to step to the plate after every homer wondering if he’s going to get plunked again. Not if he’s laid up with a broken arm. Not if he’s driven from the game by a fractured skull.

Acuna is the future of baseball.

Urena and Hernandez are best left in the past.

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Paul Newberry is a sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry@ap.org or at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry

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Acuna Still Sizzling, Homers Twice In Braves’ 10-6 Win

ATLANTA (AP) — Ronald Acuna Jr. had a case of jitters before he stepped in the batter’s box for the first time Tuesday night.

Atlanta Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. (13) follows through on a lead-off home run in the first inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018 in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

He had homered in the leadoff spot twice in a doubleheader the day before, so even Acuna wondered if it could happen again.

“I wasn’t sure I’d be able to hit another home run like that,” he said through a translator. “At first I laughed a lot, but then I got nervous again.”

He didn’t stay nervous for long.

Acuna became the youngest player in major league history to homer in five straight games, hitting a leadoff shot on the first pitch and adding a three-run long ball in the seventh inning to help the surging Atlanta Braves beat the Miami Marlins 10-6.

Freddie Freeman hit his 20th homer to tie it in the sixth, and Dansby Swanson had a tiebreaking RBI single in the seventh as the NL East-leading Braves won for the 13th time in 17 games to take a two-game lead over Philadelphia. Atlanta is 16 games over .500 for the first time since winning the division five years ago.

The 20-year-old Acuna homered on Miami’s first pitch for the second straight night and became the first player to hit a leadoff homer in three consecutive games since Baltimore’s Brady Anderson went deep in four straight in 1996. On Monday, he became the fourth player in major league history to hit leadoff homers in both games of a doubleheader.

“You see him smiling,” Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte said. “It’s contagious what he’s doing. He’s best leadoff hitter I’ve ever seen. He’s the best player I’ve ever seen. Hopefully he’s going to continue to help us in the long run.”

Acuna went deep to left-center in the first off Trevor Richards and homered to right-center, his 19th of the year, off left-hander Adam Conley to give the Braves a 10-6 lead in the seventh.

“Freddie and I were looking at each other,” manager Brian Snitker said. “He was in the hole, and we were like, ‘My God, are we seeing this?’ And the explosions when he hit ’em, too. I don’t know. It’s pretty good.”

J.T. Realmuto drove in four runs for Miami, hitting his 15th homer to tie it at 2-all in the third and lining a two-run single in the fourth to give the Marlins a 5-4 lead.

Acuna, who went 3 for 5 and enjoyed his first multi-homer game, has homered in seven of his last eight games and is hitting .358 with 12 homers, 25 runs and 24 RBIs since moving to the top of the batting order, a stretch of 24 games beginning after the All-Star break.

“We really didn’t have much of a conversation about it,” the rookie said. “I just showed up one day and saw my name in the leadoff spot. I didn’t think that much about it.”

After Acuna and Charlie Culberson homered on back-to-back pitches to make it 2-0, Atlanta took a 4-2 lead in the third inning on Johan Camargo’s RBI double and Inciarte’s RBI triple. Kurt Suzuki’s RBI single chased Richards in the fifth and made it 5-all.

Braves starter Anibal Sanchez gave up seven hits, two walks and five runs — four earned — with six strikeouts in five innings.

Jesse Biddle (4-1) earned the win despite scuffling in the sixth, giving up Christopher Bostick’s pinch-hit, RBI double and hitting Realmuto with a pitch to load the bases with no outs. The left-hander escaped with a strikeout and a double play.

“I could feel the momentum change right there,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “They came right back and scored on us.”

Richards allowed 10 hits, five runs and two walks and struck out three in 4 1/3 innings. Conley (3-3) allowed five hits and five runs in two innings.

Acuna has been the hottest Brave lately but he hasn’t been alone. Since getting shut out by Zack Wheeler and the New York Mets on Aug. 4, Atlanta has scored 67 runs and hit 21 homers in the last 11 games.

Freeman stayed hot in the season series with Miami and is hitting .439 with eight homers and 16 RBIs in 14 games this year against the Marlins.

Acuna tied the Atlanta record of homering in five consecutive games, a mark Brian McCann set in 2006. The only other major leaguer younger than 21 to homer in four straight games was Miguel Cabrera for the Marlins in 2004.

“I think this is the first time I’ve ever been hot, hot,” Acuna said. “It feels good, and you definitely show up with a lot of confidence.”

The Marlins have lost 13 of 15 and began the game tied with San Diego for the NL’s worst record.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Marlins: Mattingly said the team will wait a couple of days to see if INF Miguel Rojas goes on the disabled list with a left ankle contusion.

Braves: RHP Brandon McCarthy, on the DL since June 28 with right knee tendinitis, threw off the mound with no apparent problems and will spend the next two weeks on a rehab assignment. McCarthy will work in relief if he’s able to return when rosters expand next month. The 35-year-old has gone 6-3 with a 4.92 ERA in 15 starts.

DESPAIGNE DEALT

The Marlins traded RHP Odrisamer Despaigne to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for cash considerations. Miami’s 40-man roster is now at 39.

UP NEXT

Marlins: RHP Jose Urena (3-12, 4.74 ERA) will make his team-high 24th start. In three starts this year against the Braves, Urena is 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA.

Braves: RHP Kevin Gausman (6-9, 4.27) will make his second start against the Marlins since Atlanta acquired him in a trade with Baltimore. Gausman is 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA in two starts for the Braves.

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More AP baseball HERE and TWITTER.

Double Duty: Braves’ Acuna Rips 2 Leadoff HRs In 1 Day

ATLANTA (AP) — Ronald Acuna Jr. is only 20 years old, so he never gives much thought to his still-fledgling place in baseball history.

Atlanta Braves left fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. (13) drives in a run with a single in the sixth inning of the second baseball game of a doubleheader against the Miami Marlins Monday, Aug. 13, 2018 in Atlanta. There Braves won 6-1. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

There’ll be plenty of time for that.

So, it wasn’t until Acuna got back to the Atlanta clubhouse after a long, brilliant day that he finally realized what a feat he had pulled off.

Rarer, even, than a perfect game.

Or an unassisted triple play.

The brilliant Braves rookie joined a very exclusive club by hitting leadoff homers in both games of a doubleheader Monday, sparking first-place Atlanta to a sweep of the Miami Marlins.

Acuna appears to be only the fourth player to go deep at the start of two games in a single day, joining Brady Anderson, Rickey Henderson and Harry Hooper.

By comparison, there have been 23 perfect games and 15 unassisted triple plays.

“I just found out,” Acuna said through a translator when asked if he knew what he had done. “I give thanks to God for the opportunity to make history in my own sense.”

Acuna worked the count in his favor the first time up. Then he got hold of a 3-1 pitch from Pablo Lopez , sending an opposite-field drive an estimated 414 feet into the Braves’ bullpen in right-center.

There was no waiting around in Game 2. On the very first pitch from Merandy Gonzalez, making his first big league start, Acuna launched a towering, 441-foot shot into the seats in left-center .

“It’s pretty special,” said Braves star Freddie Freeman, who also homered in Game 2. “He’s some kind of hot right now. What he’s doing at the plate, you just don’t see it very often.”

Over the course of about nine hours, Acuna went 5 for 8 with two homers, five RBIs, five runs, two walks, a double and a stolen base.

He’s really flourished since moving into the leadoff spot right after the All-Star break, hitting .344 with 10 homers in 23 games — including homers in four straight games and six of the last seven. He’ll be looking to make it five in a row when the Braves host the Marlins again Tuesday night.

Acuna has 17 homers on the season, four of them leading off games. The franchise record for that category is held by Marquis Grissom, who had seven in 1996.

Don’t bet against Acuna taking down that mark.

“Freddie and I were just kind of standing there smiling at each other like, ’Again?’” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s been fun to watch.”

If anything, Acuna has exceeded the enormous hype that accompanied his exceptional play in spring training, even though the Braves started him at Triple-A to ensure they’ll get an extra year before he’s eligible for free agency.

Since taking his rightful place in the big leagues, Acuna’s been making up for lost time.

“We’ve been waiting for this kid since the start of spring training,” said Mike Foltynewicz, who picked up the Game 2 win with eight strong innings. “We’re happy as happy as hell to have him on our team. Every single night, he’s doing something. I don’t know how you pitch to him leading off a game.”

The Elias Sports Bureau said Anderson was the last to hit two leadoff homers in one day, going deep twice for the Baltimore Orioles against the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 21, 1999.

Before that, it was accomplished by Henderson when the Oakland A’s hosted the Cleveland Indians in a twin bill on July 5, 1993. Then it takes a really deep dive into the record books — more than a century — to find Hooper homering to start a pair of games for the Boston Red Sox against the Washington Senators on May 20, 1913.

Henderson and Hooper are Hall of Famers.

Acuna’s hot streak couldn’t have come at a better time for the Braves, who have won 12 of their last 16 to grab a one-game lead over Philadelphia in the NL East.

With a month and a half left in the season, Atlanta is a serious playoff contender for the first time since 2014. That year, the Braves faded badly down the stretch and embarked on a major rebuilding job that led to three straight 90-loss seasons.

Now, stocked with some of the game’s best young talent, they’re in the thick of things again.

No one expects Acuna and the rest of the Baby Braves to be overwhelmed by their first pennant race.

“They play like their hair’s on fire,” Snitker said. “They’re infectious kids. They rub off on all of us.”

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Albies’ Homer In 7th Lifts Braves Past Brewers 8-7

ATLANTA (AP) — As he watched hitter after hitter reach base for Milwaukee, Brian Snitker felt like his Braves were always behind.

Way behind.

Atlanta Braves’ Ozzie Albies (1) is congratulated as he enters the dugout after hitting a home run against the Milwaukee Brewers during the seventh inning of a baseball game Sunday Aug. 12, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)

Instead, Atlanta stayed close despite being outhit 19-9 and took advantage of Ozzie Albies’ tiebreaking homer in the seventh inning to beat the Brewers 8-7 on Sunday.

“I’m so proud of the way the guys fought today,” said Snitker, the Braves’ manager. “At one point of the game I felt like we were about eight runs down. There’s a lot of grit in these guys, a lot of fight. They’re tough.”

Albies’ homer was one of three hit by Atlanta. Ronald Acuna Jr. and Dansby Swanson added two-run shots for the Braves, who took two of three in a matchup of playoff contenders.

The Brewers had two or more hits in each of the first seven innings.

“It was tough when they keep getting hits but we have to keep fighting through it and that’s what we did today,” Albies said. “We never give up.”

Jesus Aguilar drove in four runs with three hits, including a three-run homer , for Milwaukee. The Brewers left 13 runners on base to only four for the Braves.

“It was a crazy game,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “When you strand 13, you always think you’ve left runs out there.”

The Brewers’ inability to deliver with runners on base reached a peak in the seventh. Facing Jonny Venters (2-1), Ryan Braun hit into a bases-loaded double play to end the inning.

Albies gave Atlanta the lead by lining his 21st homer over the left-field wall on a slider from Dan Jennings (4-4) to lead off the seventh.

Milwaukee also left the bases loaded in the fourth.

A.J. Minter pitched the ninth for his 10th save in 11 chances. Eric Kratz hit a one-out single before Lorenzo Cain, who had four hits, flied out. After Kratz moved to second on a wild pitch, Minter struck out Christian Yelich to end the game.

After allowing only one earned run in three straight starts, Sean Newcomb lasted only four innings, giving up five runs on 12 hits and two walks. The left-hander was tagged for a combined 10 runs on 17 hits in 7 2/3 innings in two starts against the Brewers this season.

Brewers starter Chase Anderson also was pulled after four innings, giving up four runs on five hits and two walks.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Brewers: RHP Kyle Davies (right shoulder) will join the Brewers in Chicago, but will make at least one more minor league rehab start after permitting four runs in five innings for Double-A Biloxi at Tennessee on Saturday. … RHP Taylor Williams (right elbow) had what Counsell called a “positive” bullpen session and could come off the 10-day DL without a minor league rehab. … C Manny Pina left the game one inning after being hit by Freddie Freeman’s foul tip in the fifth.

Braves: LHP Sam Freeman (left shoulder inflammation) reported to Class A Rome. Freeman had a 5.45 ERA in 49 games when he was placed on the 10-day DL on July 30.

CHASING A RARE HIT

Anderson, who took a .088 batting average into the game, enjoyed a rare hitting highlight. He slapped a 0-2 pitch from Newcomb up the middle for a two-run single in the second. He also drove in two runs against the Cubs on Sept. 9, 2017.

HOT AND HUMID

The temperature for the first pitch was 86, and each starter struggled with humid conditions. Snitker noticed Newcomb frequently grabbing handfuls of dirt on the mound. Anderson had similar problems.

“I couldn’t get my hand dry the first couple of innings,” Anderson said. “I couldn’t figure that out.”

UP NEXT

Brewers: Following an off day on Monday, RHP Jhoulys Chacin (11-4, 3.91) will start when Milwaukee opens a two-game series at the Cubs on Tuesday. Chacin struck out while pinch-hitting for Anderson in the fifth.

Braves: RHP Touki Toussaint is expected to be recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett to make his major league debut in the first game of Monday’s split doubleheader against Miami. Toussaint, 22, joins Mike Soroka and Kolby Allard as first-time starters for Atlanta this season. RHP Mike Foltynewicz will start the night game.

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Nationals Top Braves 6-3, Gio Gonzalez Ends Personal Skid

Thursday, August 9, 2018
Associated Press

WASHINGTON –Gio Gonzalez ended a personal drought that spanned more than two months — and helped give the Washington Nationals a four-game split with another National League East contender.

Washington Nationals’ Juan Soto (22) celebrates with his teammates after a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018, in Washington. The Nationals won 6-3. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Gonzalez pitched seven strong innings for his first victory since May 28, leading the Nationals to a 6-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Thursday.

“I think I was just happy that I got to high-five my teammates for the first time in a while,” Gonzalez said. “For me it was not the pressure, it was just the going out there and doing what I can do to go out there and try and pitch the best I can. Today it finally showed. It finally stepped to the right direction that I wanted.”

The Nationals moved within 5 1/2 games of idle NL East leader Philadelphia. The Braves fell a game behind the Phillies.

Gonzalez (7-8) snapped a seven-game losing streak and had gone 11 consecutive starts without a victory. He allowed six hits and one walk while striking out three. Nick Markakis‘ solo homer to lead off the second was the lone run he allowed.

Atlanta starter Anibal Sanchez pitched two scoreless innings but left after getting hit in the left calf by a grounder from Michael Taylor. Manager Brian Snitker said he was hopeful Sanchez would make his next start.

“It looked like Anibal was going to have one of his games starting out,” Snitker said. “He was sharp as can be. We just had a hard time getting ahold of Gio. That was the biggest thing. We couldn’t do anything with him.”

Sanchez was replaced by Wes Parsons (0-1), who yielded a bases-loaded walk to Juan Soto and a sacrifice fly by Anthony Rendon as Washington went ahead in the third.

Taylor homered to left in the fourth to bump Washington’s lead to 3-1, and Daniel Murphy added an RBI double in the sixth.

But Parsons worked five innings in his major league debut, vital for a team that had two starters last only two innings during the series in Washington and heads home to face Milwaukee after a 5-3 road trip.

“A winning road trip, you take that every single time,” said Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman, who had three hits. “Sometimes, you have to lose a battle to win the war. I thought what Wes Parsons did was absolutely huge for this ballclub. That’s going to win us games later on with a fresh bullpen.”

Ronald Acuna Jr.’s one-out homer in the eighth pulled Atlanta within two runs, but the Nationals got RBI from Ryan Zimmerman and Mark Reynolds in the bottom of the inning to make it 6-2.

Washington went 7-3 on its homestand and begins a seven-game trip to face the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis.

“It was big, a big win for us,” manager Dave Martinez said. “Happy flight.”

HARPER SCRATCHED

Washington outfielder Bryce Harper was scratched from the lineup with right knee soreness. Atlanta reliever Dan Winkler hit Harper just below the right knee in the seventh inning on Wednesday night. Martinez said X-rays on Harper were negative.

DOUBLE DEBUT

Parsons and Adam McCreery both made their major league debuts for Atlanta, combining to pitch the last six innings. It was the first time the Braves had two pitchers debut in the same game since June 30, 2015, when Jake Brigham and Ryan Kelly did so against Washington.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Braves: 3B Johan Camargo was out of the starting lineup for the first time since July 14. He struck out as a pinch hitter to end the game. Charlie Culberson filled in at third for Camargo.

Nationals: Martinez said RHP Stephen Strasburg (cervical nerve impingement) will throw at least one more bullpen session before the team decides whether he is ready for a minor league rehabilitation start. Strasburg has not pitched for Washington since July 20.

UP NEXT

Braves: RHP Kevin Gausman (0-1, 5.40 ERA) makes his second start since his acquisition from Baltimore as Atlanta returns home to open a three-game series with Milwaukee.

Nationals: Washington begins a three-game series in Chicago against the Cubs with RHP Jeremy Hellickson (5-2, 3.56) getting the nod.

More AP baseball: AP BASEBALL and TWITTER.

 

Culberson Sparks HR Spree By Braves In 8-3 Victory Over Nats

Wednesday, August 8, 2018
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — First, Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz worked his way out of a precarious jam. A few innings later, Ronald Acuna Jr. lent a high-rising, helping hand at the center-field wall.

Combining clutch pitching, long-ball hitting and Acuna’s deft skill in the outfield, the Braves beat the Washington Nationals 8-3 Wednesday night.

Atlanta Braves’ Ozzie Albies is safe at home as Washington Nationals catcher Matt Wieters can’t make the tag in time during the seventh inning of a baseball game at Nationals Park, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018, in Washington. The Braves won 8-3. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Foltynewicz needed 35 pitches to get out of the first inning. He gave up a double, a single and a walk and another runner reached on a throwing error — yet the Nationals scored only one unearned run and left the bases loaded.

“I knew if I could limit the damage to even two runs there our offense would get some runs back,” Foltynewicz said.

After that, Charlie Culberson hit a three-run homer in the second inning off Tommy Milone (1-1) and Tyler Flowers and Acuna added two-run shots in the fourth.

In the bottom of the fourth, Acuna made a sensational catch to rob Matt Adams of a home run. Acuna raced back to the center-field wall, leaped and snagged the ball with his outstretched glove before sprawling on the warning track. Foltynewicz waved his cap to show his appreciation for the play.

“He’s a very skilled player,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said of Acuna. “He’s got a ways to go. He’s far from being a finished product, but he’s a very talented young man. He’s an exciting player because he’s got skills.”

Atlanta has won eight of 10 to move within a half-game of first-place Philadelphia in the NL East. Washington fell six games back following its second consecutive loss to the Braves.

Bryce Harper hit his 28th home run for the Nationals, who showed their frustration in the sixth inning when rookie Juan Soto and hitting coach Kevin Long were ejected by home plate umpire Greg Gibson. Soto started jawing at Gibson before stepping into the batter’s box, sharing his opinion on a third strike call on his previous at-bat.

“I never think he’s gonna toss me out. I don’t say anything wrong,” Soto contended.

So what did he say?

“That the pitch before was a ball. Make sure he can understand and be better. Help him help us,” Soto said.

Manager Dave Martinez said, “I didn’t think it was appropriate to throw him out in a situation like that, really. He could have said, `Hey that’s enough. Let’s get in the box,’ whatever.”

That wasn’t the only thing that angered Martinez.

“We left 10 guys on base,” he lamented. “We got 10 hits, but we couldn’t get that big hit.”

It was 7-2 in the sixth before Harper hit a leadoff homer and Soto was ejected. Washington went on to load the bases with two outs before Luke Jackson replaced Foltynewicz and struck out Adam Eaton .

Foltynewicz (9-7) allowed three runs, one earned, in 5 2/3 innings. He’s 3-2 in five starts against Washington this season.

Culberson has homered in all three games in this series. He has eight home runs this season, five against the Nationals.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Braves: Placed on the DL on Tuesday with a left groin strain, LHP Max Fried doesn’t expect to be out for long. “It’s just a little sore,” he said Wednesday. “For the most part, I’m just trying to get it better to make sure it’s a non-issue going forward.”

Nationals: RHP Kelvin Herrera was placed on the 10-day DL with a rotator cuff impingement, an injury he sustained Tuesday. If all goes well, he can start throwing by the end of next week. … Stephen Strasburg (cervical nerve impingement) and Erick Fedde (shoulder inflammation) threw in the bullpen. “They both threw well, said they felt good,” Martinez said. “The next step for both is to have another bullpen session and go from there.”

WELCOME BACK

With Herrera out, Washington recalled Koda Glover from Triple-A Syracuse. As a rookie last season, Glover notched eight saves in 23 games before rotator cuff tendinitis ended his season in June.

UP NEXT

Braves: Anibel Sanchez (6-3, 2.89 ERA) pitches the series finale Thursday afternoon. He’s 10-1 with a 2.11 ERA lifetime against Washington.

Nationals: Gio Gonzalez (6-8, 4.04 ERA) is 0-6 in his last 11 starts since May 28 and owns a 5-11 career record against the Braves.

More AP baseball HERE

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