Acuna Jr. gets married, then creates 30-60 club
Published 5:12 pm Friday, September 1, 2023
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ronald Acuña Jr. had a full day: The Atlanta Braves star got married in the morning, hit a landmark grand slam and ended the night beating NL MVP rival Mookie Betts and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
He hopes to postpone the honeymoon until November.
Before leading the Braves over the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-7 on Thursday night, Acuña wed fiancée Maria Laborde in a small ceremony at a house in the mountains about 45 minutes from the team’s hotel. The couple have two young sons together.
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“I didn’t mention anything to anybody,” Acuña said through a translator. “It’s something that I’ve had planned out weeks ahead.”
“Holy cow,” surprised Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I’m better off not knowing most of this stuff, quite honestly, but congratulations to him.”
Acuña’s grand slam broke a 1-1 second-inning tie and made him the first player with 30 homers and 60 stolen bases in a season. Atlanta needed a strong offensive performance to overcome a pair of homers by Betts.
“I feel very happy, I feel very special,” Acuña said. “I’m very thankful, I feel very privileged.”
Atlanta took a 7-1 lead in the fifth and hung on when Raisel Iglesias struck out Kiké Hernández with two on for the final out.
“That was some kind of game,” Snitker said. “Lived up to the hype, I guess.”
After Acuña’s secret nuptials, he got three hits and helped the major league-best Braves improve to 88-45. He sent a 429-foot shot into the left-field pavilion off Lance Lynn (10-10) in a six-run second inning for his third career slam. Acuña has 36 career homers in August, his most in any month. He stole his 62nd base in the ninth.
“He got married and became the first player in history to have 30 homers and 60 stolen bases,” teammate Michael Harris II said. “That’s a pretty wild day.”
Betts was 2 for 4 with four RBIs, three runs and two homers, giving him a career-high 38 on the season. His three-run, opposite-field drive to right with two outs in the fifth pulled the Dodgers to 7-4. Acuña made a leaping grab at the wall but his glove was over the fence and the ball tipped off it.
“It’s hard not to watch those two guys go head-to-head,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
Twelve of the game’s 15 runs came on seven homers by the top two long-ball teams in the majors.
After Betts flied out to deep right leading off the ninth, Freddie Freeman walked and Will Smith singled, putting the potential tying and winning runs aboard. But Max Muncy flied out and Iglesias got his 27th save in 29 chances, his 18th in a row.
The Braves ended August with a 21-8 mark, trying the Atlanta-era record for wins in the month set by the 1999 club that went 21-7. Atlanta improved its MLB-leading record to 88-45.
“We like to play at our full potential and like to I guess be challenged,” Harris said, “and they’re the team that’s definitely going to challenge us and bring out the best in us. It’ll get our minds right for October.”
The Dodgers finished the month 24-5 and had their four-game winning streak snapped. They lead the NL West at 83-50.
With the Dodgers trailing 7-1, Betts hit a three-run homer in the fifth off Spencer Strider (16-4), who allowed four runs and four hits in six innings with nine strikeouts.
Michael Busch homered off Joe Jiménez in the seventh and Betts hit a solo shot that cut the Dodgers’ deficit to 8-6. His two hits gave him 51 in August, the most in Los Angeles Dodgers’ history. Muncy went deep leading off the eighth, leaving the Dodgers trailing 8-7.
Acuña, Harris and Austin Riley were a combined 7 for 14 with seven hits and seven RBIs. Each of them homered, too, giving the Braves a major league-high 253 homers.
Acuña is saving his honeymoon until the season is over.
“Preferably after the World Series,” he said.
Braves: INF Ozzie Albies got the day off and will play the rest of the series.
Dodgers: RHP Walker Buehler (Tommy John surgery) will begin a rehab assignment Sunday. He’ll pitch one or two innings at Triple-A Oklahoma City and make at least three rehab starts before rejoining the Dodgers’ rotation. The goal is to build him up as a potential starter before the end of the regular season.