Atlanta Braves catch a break with Ronald Acuña injury

Ronald Acuña Jr. appears to have escaped major injury after fouling a ball off his left ankle on Friday

It was a sight that could give Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker nightmares: his superstar outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr., collapsing to the ground clutching his left foot and having to be helped off the field.

But that’s what happened on Friday when Acuña fouled a 93 mph sinker from the Nationals’ Erick Fedde off his ankle with one out in the fourth inning at Nationals Park. The Braves training staff immediately came to attend to the 22-year-old, who had to be escorted back to the dugout by Snitker and trainer Mike Frostad.

It was a potentially devastating loss for the NL East-leading Braves, but it appears as if they caught a break. An examination of Acuña’s ankle showed no fracture and he was able to walk around without assistance. He could even play against the Nationals on Saturday.

Braves catch a break with Ronald Acuña injury

“They said he wasn’t that bad right now,” Snitker said following the game, according to MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. “I think it hit a nerve or something. But by the time they got him upstairs, he walked over, had it X-rayed and everything was good.”

Acuña is irreplaceable at the top of the Braves batting order. He’s hitting .321 with six home runs in nine games in September; his 1.537 OPS over that span is the best in baseball. His .537 on-base percentage this month is third-best behind Mike Trout and Jeff McNeil.

He’s led an explosive Braves lineup that has scored 94 runs in 11 games so far in September, including an NL-record 29 against the Marlins on Wednesday. Acuña did his part in that historic outburst, becoming the first batter since at least 1974 to reach base each of the first six innings of a game. He also hit three home runs during a Sept. 4 doubleheader against the Nationals.

He’s not the only Braves batter who’s hot right now. Freddie Freeman, Marcell Ozuna, and Adam Duvall make up the top-three in the league in RBI this month (Acuña is eighth). In addition to Acuña, all three of them rank in the top-10 in OPS since Sept. 1. Despite a starting pitch staff that has the third-worst ERA in the league, the Braves are 26-19 on the season and have been in sole possession of first place in the NL East since Aug. 17.

Acuña has already been bitten by the injury bug twice this season. He missed two weeks in August with a wrist injury and three games at the beginning of September with hamstring tightness. It appeared as if he had been struck down again on Friday, but this time, he and the Braves are lucky he escaped unscathed.

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