• Braves win series over Dodgers thanks to ... Rafael Ortega

    By: Gabriel Burns, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


    ATLANTA - Just as Braves fans dreamed, their Venezuelan center fielder cranked a grand slam to lead their team to a series victory over the Dodgers.

    OK, not exactly how they drew it up.

    There won't be many afternoons at SunTrust Park that feature as much drama as Sunday. The Braves fell behind early, benched their MVP candidate and still defeated the NL's best team, 5-3, thanks to a grand slam from journeyman Rafael Ortega, who had one career homer prior.

    We begin with the headliner: Ronald Acuna had a tough day. It began when leaped at the center field wall, catching a would-be home run by Cody Bellinger, but as he came down and his arm bent over the wall, the ball popped out. As a result, the Braves were down 3-0 in the first. Acuna threw his glove, an understandable reaction given how close he came to perhaps the best catch of his career.

    The day would get worse for the Braves' 21-year-old superstar. After starter Max Fried doubled in the third, Acuna thought he'd homered over the right field wall. He clung to his bat and admired the shot. Only problem: It bounced off the wall, leaving Acuna at first.

    Fried, meanwhile, didn't round the bases despite the ball clearly being uncatchable. He remained stranded at third. Acuna then attempted to steal second, which would've produced his 30-30 season, but was gunned down.

    Manager Brian Snitker called Acuna into the dugout steps leading to the clubhouse. The two met for a few minutes and Acuna was removed from the game. The moment has already been likened to Bobby Cox's benching of Andruw Jones. In the present day, Snitker saw an opportunity to teach a lesson to one of the game's brightest young players, and so he moved forward with an outfield of Matt Joyce, Adam Duvall and Ortega.

    In typical Braves fashion, Ortega, who'd shifted to center in Acuna's absence, took on the MVP mantle. The Braves loaded the bases against Dodgers rookie Dustin May, who'd entered from the bullpen. Brian McCann walked, Matt Joyce singled and Adeiny Hechavarria reached for the third time in the game on a hit by pitch.

    Ortega, a 28-year-old veteran of seven organizations who's only in the majors because of an injury flurry, pounded a sinker that didn't sink into the stands. Amongst the drama of benching Acuna, the Braves had rallied from three down to take a 5-3 lead on the Dodgers.

    The win awarded the Braves just their second series victory over the Dodgers in 11 years. It was their first series win at home over L.A. since 2013. It lived up to the hype of a potential playoff preview, with the Dodgers and Braves owning the NL's two best records.

    The Braves are off Monday before hosting the Marlins for three. Dallas Keuchel, Julio Teheran and Mike Soroka are set to start in the series that wraps up a nine-game homestand.

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