“He’s the best leadoff hitter I’ve ever seen,” Braves teammate Ender Inciarte said of Ronald Acuña Jr. “He’s the best player I’ve ever seen.” Gushing praise, from a teammate, sure, but counterweigh that bias with the fact that Acuña is still just 20 years old. And at least over the last week, it has been absolutely true.
On Monday, Acuña became just the fourth player in baseball history with leadoff homers in both games of a double-header. He was absolutely thinking about that when he stepped to the plate on Tuesday. “I wasn’t sure I’d be able to hit another home run like that,” he said. “At first I laughed a lot, but then I got nervous again.” So, on the very first pitch:
“I never have [seen anything like it] in my lifetime,” manager Brian Snitker said. “Freddie [Freeman] and I are sitting there looking at each other like ‘My God. Are we really seeing this?’ And the explosions when he hit them, too.”
Acuña later homered again to help the Braves to a 10-6 win over the Marlins, extending Atlanta’s division lead to two games, and it is patently absurd what Acuña is doing right now. He has homered to lead off three straight games, the first player to do that since 1996; he has homered in five straight games; he has gone deep eight times in his last eight games.
Again, 20 years old.
Acuña has been vitalized since being moved to the leadoff spot after the all-star break, hitting .358 with 12 homers and 24 RBI in 24 games. In his last eight games alone, he’s hitting .471 with eight dingers and 15 RBI. The Venezuelan-born left fielder claims it’s the first time since being called up at the end of April that he’s been, in his words, “hot-hot.”
This is absolutely the good shit. We are in the dog days right now, and it’s pretty great that a Braves-Marlins game on the ides of August will warrant a live look-in, as Acuña tonight attempts to tie Brady Anderson’s major-league record of four straight games with a leadoff homer. It’s also wild that Acuña isn’t even close to the front-runner for NL Rookie of the Year—that’d be Washington’s Juan Soto, just 19 years old and the near-unanimous favorite in a poll of MLB.com reporters conducted earlier this week. We have that race to look forward to down the stretch, and the prospect of seeing Soto and Acuña do their thing—perhaps both in the same division for the duration—for the next 15 years.