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Ronald Acuña Jr.’s lack of hustle proves costly for Braves

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It was only two months ago that Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. was benched for a lack of hustle. In mid-August, Acuña gawked at what he thought was a home run. The ball, however, stayed in the yard so he had to settle for a long single. Manager Brian Snitker removed him from the game not long afterwards.

Acuña apparently didn’t learn his lesson because the same thing happened, this time in a playoff game. Acuña led off the bottom of the seventh inning of NLDS Game 1 against the Cardinals with the Braves leading 3-1. He slapped a John Brebbia offering down the right field line. Either because he thought it was a home run or because he wasn’t sure if it would stay fair, Acuña watched the ball travel in the air rather than running hard. The ball caromed off of the right field fence. Dexter Fowler played the carom and fired the ball on one hop to second base, leaving Acuña with a long single.

Acuña moved to second base on an Ozzie Albies ground out. He should have been on third base instead, and it proved costly. Lefty Andrew Miller entered, eventually putting Freddie Freeman on first base after hitting him with a pitch. Josh Donaldson then hit a sharp liner to shortstop Paul DeJong. Acuña was too far off the second base bag when the 104 MPH line drive was caught, so he was doubled off to end the inning. If he had been on third base instead, he wouldn’t have been doubled off. Thus, the Braves would have had another opportunity to pad their lead.

The Cardinals rallied for two runs to tie the game at 3-3 in the top of the eighth, then plated four runs in the ninth en route to a 7-6 victory. Acuña added a two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth, his third hit of the night, but the Braves’ rally came up short.

Snitker could not have benched his team’s best player in the middle of a playoff game, and he can’t bench him ahead of an upcoming playoff game, either. One, however, imagines Snitker and Acuña will have a conversation about the lack of hustle following Thursday’s loss.

Update (9:34 PM ET): Freeman wasn’t happy about it. Per The Athletic’s David O’Brien:

Mattingly: Marlins sidelined by virus are ‘feeling great’

Marlins COVID-19 tests
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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Maimi Marlins players sidelined by COVID-19 are all asymptomatic, and some have applied for reinstatement, according to manager Don Mattingly.

The Marlins placed 17 players on the injured list last week following an outbreak in Philadelphia that forced seven games to be postponed. The infected players returned to Miami to be quarantined, and will likely need rehab workouts before rejoining the team.

“They feeling great,” Mattingly said. “They all feel like they’re ready to go. There are a lot of guys who have applied for reinstatement. How long that takes, I’m not sure. But they feel like they’re ready to at least get back and start doing something.”

Players on the COVID-19 injury list must be cleared by the MLB joint committee before returning.

Mattingly made his comments before the Marlins’ game against the Blue Jays in Buffalo, where they concluded a season-opening trip that turned into a 23-day marathon because of scheduling changes necessitated by the outbreak.

The team plays at Marlins Park for the first time this season Friday against Atlanta.