ATLANTA - Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna are getting a lot attention as the Braves’ exceedingly young dynamic duo, creating buzz throughout baseball and doing the kind of things they talked about someday doing when the close friends were roommates last July at Triple-A Gwinnett.
“It’s something we talked about regularly,” Acuna said through a translator late Wednesday. “Just one of those things like, ‘Man, can you imagine when we’re in the big leagues together?’ And fortunately, luckily, here we are at the moment.”
They just never imagined they’d be having such an impact together so soon at this level.
“I didn’t think how quickly it could happen,” Albies said, “but we had plans to work out every day for our dream to come true, to play together in the big leagues.”
They’re doing a lot more than just playing together. They’ve helped the Braves carve the National League’s best record (26-16) with 42 games down and 120 to go. Albies, 21, who’s played like an All-Star and perhaps even an MVP candidate all season, had a double and triple and scored two runs in Wednesday night’s 4-1 win against the Cubs, with Acuna driving him in after the eighth-inning triple with a tie-breaking single.
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It marked the second night in a row that 20-year-old Acuna, the youngest player in the majors, drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning vs. the Cubs. He did it Tuesday with a home run that made him one of only three players in more than a century of Braves baseball to be as young as he and homer for the go-ahead run in the eighth inning or later, joining Andruw Jones and legendary Hank Aaron.
Albies, the youngest player in the majors until Acuna was called up April 25 from Triple-A, is tied with five others for the major league home-run lead with 13 and tied with Boston’s Mookie Betts for the majors lead in extra-base hits with 30. Albies has hit .283 with a stunning .598 slugging percentage and .918 OPS in 42 games.
Acuna, in his first 20 major league games, has hit .275 with six doubles, four homers and a .348 OBP and .500 slugging percentage.
“I mean, they are what they are,” said Braves veteran pitcher Brandon McCarthy, 34, who doesn’t try to downplay how unusual it is to see two players so young have this success and play with such confidence and aggressiveness.
“They’re not 20, 21, whatever the hell they are. It doesn’t feel like you’re watching kids play,” McCarthy said. “They’re just very, very talented. Ozzie’s aggressiveness is incredible, and then Acuna you can just see, game after game, coming into himself and figuring out what he can and can’t do. But that said, with them it just goes from there – I mean, young guys in the bullpen, young guys all over that are doing exactly what they have to do, night after night.”
Albies, generously listed at 5 feet 8 and 165 pounds, is tied for the majors home run lead with the likes of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. He has more homers than Mike Trout or behemoths including Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.
McCarthy was asked if he thought these kids were capable of this after seeing them at spring training.
“I mean, I saw that Ozzie was 5-6, so it’s natural -- like waiting for Dustin Pedroia to prove it -- it’s like, naturally inside you’re going to think big people are going to do as well, or something’s wrong. Now that I see Ozzie’s all-around game, paying attention like you’re not really paying attention in spring, you realize this is a complete baseball player who can do a lot of things that I didn’t see coming in the spring.
“Acuna, I mean, I saw that last year -- I watched some of his games and saw him in the fall league -- and it was like, I knew this was kind of what we were going to see.”
This article was written by David O'Brien, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Alex Anthopoulos said he “would be lying through my teeth,” if he claimed that he expected the Braves would be in first place at this juncture of the season, but the team’s first-year general manager is enjoying the moment and appreciates the job being done by manager Brian Snitker.
Anthopoulos sat down for an extended interview on the “We Never Played the Game” podcast, covering a variety of topics, including: the impact his father’s sudden passing from a heart attack had on his own life; his transition from the heating-and-air business in Montreal to a non-paying job in baseball sorting players’ mail; his climb through the ranks; the inaccurate perception that he lost a power struggle in Toronto; and the decision to come to the Braves after the organization was rocked by an international signing scandal.
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