Feisty series continues between Braves, Marlins
The hostility between the teams began on Aug. 15. To that point, Ronald Acuna had homered in each of his previous five games. He had also homered four times in the previous three games against Miami.
So when Acuna stepped to the plate to lead off the game, the Marlins certainly wanted to shut him down. But Marlins pitcher Jose Urena — who claimed he was just pitching Acuna inside — hit the Braves rookie star with a fastball.
Both dugouts emptied. No punches were thrown, but Urena was ejected and ultimately suspended, making him unavailable for this weekend’s series.
Thursday was the first game between the teams since the incident, and the ill feelings returned.
Acuna belted a third-inning solo home run, his 21st homer of the season and his seventh against Miami, on Thursday. It had an exit velocity of 105 mph and gave him the home-run lead among all rookies this season.
He also has 18 RBIs this season against the Marlins, and his 432-foot monster blow seemed like sweet revenge.
However, Acuna was hit again, this time by Marlins reliever Javy Guerra, who lost control of a 94-mph fastball on an 0-2 count.
Acuna, who was struck on his right hand, reacted by angrily, tossing his helmet to the ground and glaring at Guerra.
“He was just trying to get the ball (inside),” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of Guerra’s pitch. “There was nothing intentional. It’s over.”
However, in the bottom of the sixth, Braves starter Sean Newcomb — who hadn’t hit a batter all season — plunked Miami’s top rookie, third baseman Brian Anderson, with a 94-mph fastball.
Anderson was also hit by a 78-mph curve ball in the eighth inning by reliever Jesse Biddle.
It remains to be seen if Friday’s game will evolve into a beanball battle. But the focus will surely be on the pitches thrown by Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz (10-7, 2.72 ERA) and his Marlins counterpart, Dan Straily (4-6, 4.60).
Foltynewicz, 26, became a first-time All-Star this year. He made his major league debut in 2014 and is now one win away from a career high in victories.
He is also pitching his best ball at the moment, with a 1.35 ERA in four August starts, going 3-0 in that span. That includes allowing just one run in eight innings to the Marlins in a 6-1 victory on Aug. 13.
A first-round pick of the Houston Astros in 2010, “Folty” has a strong arm and an above-average fastball. On average, his fastball comes in at 96.3 mph, and Marlins batters are hitting .182 in 44 at-bats against him this year.
Better yet for the Braves, Foltynewicz has bounced back emphatically from a poor July in which he went 2-3 with a 5.72 ERA.
He is 5-1 with a 3.31 ERA in 10 career appearances, including nine starts, against Miami, and he is 2-0 with an 0.69 ERA in two starts against the Marlins this season.
Meanwhile, Braves batters are hitting .246 this year against Straily, including home runs by Acuna (of course), Ozzie Albies and Nick Markakis.
Straily is 4-3 with a 5.00 ERA in nine career starts against the Braves, and he is 2-1 with a 4.02 ERA in three starts against them in 2018.
The Marlins, who managed just five hits — four singles and a double — in Thursday’s 5-0 loss to the Braves — could also be without reliever Jarlin Garcia. On Thursday, Garcia was removed from the game in the fifth inning when he was hit by a batted ball on his right shin.
“He’s hobbling pretty good,” Mattingly said. “He looks like he will be out a little bit.”
Regardless, Mattingly paid his respects to the Braves, who are 72-55 and in first place in the National League East, leading the last-place Marlins (51-78) by 22 games.
“They have a good lineup,” Mattingly said. “It’s tough to get through there. They have a couple of switch-hitters. They have a bunch of guys who are driving in runs. It’s not just one or two guys. It’s why they are on top of the division. They have production up and down the order.”