October 14th, 2022
PHILADELPHIA -- Ronald Acuña Jr. was intent on staying in Game 2 of the National League Division Series on Wednesday night after being struck near the right elbow by a wayward Zack Wheeler fastball. And he was adamant that the injury would not keep him out of Friday's Game 3. Sure enough, Acuña is in the lineup against the Phillies, playing right field and leading off as usual.
“I already missed one postseason,” Acuña told the television audience after Game 2. “I’m not going to miss another one.”
Acuña’s status had been among several open questions for the Braves on Thursday, a travel day as the series shifted to Citizens Bank Park and a treatment day for Acuña, who has reached safely six times in his first nine plate appearances of this series. He has four NLDS hits, including a double, plus a walk and that hit by pitch with two outs in the decisive sixth inning of Game 2. That seemed to alter Wheeler’s momentum, and it started Atlanta's three-run rally that decided a 3-0 win and evened the series at 1-1.
In the moment, Acuña’s teammates held their breath as he crouched in apparent pain. They saw a similar scene on the warning track in right field in July 2021, when Acuña tore the ACL in his right knee and missed the rest of the Braves' run to the World Series championship.
This time, the level of concern was significantly lower.
“The trainers are all good with him,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said after posting his Game 3 lineup. “The biggest thing, as I said [after Game 2], it worked out good that he scored and we had some time, that inning kept going, and it was just about getting feeling back [in his arm].
“By the time that inning was over, he was throwing in the cage and was good to go. I think if that inning would have ended with him at second base, I'm not 100 percent sure we would have felt comfortable running him back out there. But because we had some time and we could test him out a little bit in the cage, everybody felt good about it. And I don't know we could have kept him out; he was bound and determined to go back.”
Acuña was asked several times the night before about his status, and he brushed off concern. He said he was in severe pain after being hit in what he called the “Tommy John area” of his elbow, but he added, “We won. Everything feels good.”
“It's a big difference when he's there as opposed to not being there,” Snitker said. “I mean, there's no doubt. And I think his legs seem to be feeling good. When that's happening and he can use them, he's a difference maker, obviously.”