It’s astounding what the Braves have been able to accomplish, winning their first pennant in 22 years without the help of arguably their best player (apologies to reigning MVP Freddie Freeman) Ronald Acuna, who led the National League in both runs scored (72) and wins above replacement (4.2) before a July ACL tear ended his season. Atlanta’s acquisitions of Joc Pederson, Eddie Rosario and Adam Duvall at the July trade deadline have helped mitigate that loss, though that doesn’t make the Braves’ resiliency, surviving injuries to Acuna and Mike Soroka—not to mention a domestic violence scandal shelving slugger Marcell Ozuna since late May—any less remarkable.
Speaking of Acuna, the All-Star outfielder provided an update on his health before Tuesday’s World Series opener in Houston, sharing with Astros third baseman Alex Bregman (in Spanish) that he’s aiming for a May return.
Acuna’s knee gave out July 10th while tracking down a ball in right field against the Marlins, prompting a season-ending procedure days later. Prior to that, the 23-year-old Venezuelan boasted an impressive .283/.394/.596 slash line with 24 homers, 52 RBI and 17 steals across 82 appearances. The usual recovery time for ACL surgery is 6-9 months. A May return would put Acuna on the later end of that window. It was reported earlier this month Acuna plans to resume jogging in November or December.
The Braves, who began their playoff run with the fewest wins (88) of any postseason qualifier, will look to take a 2-0 series lead in Wednesday night’s Game 2 at Minute Maid Park. Left-hander Max Fried will oppose Houston’s Jose Urquidy, who was lit up for six runs (five earned) in his previous start October 18th against Boston.