Ronald Acuña Jr. is making Major League Baseball history…
The 25-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball outfielder’s steal of second base in the 10th inning of a hard-fought matchup between his Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs was Acuña’s second of the night and 70th this season, making him the first player in MLB history to hit at least 40 home runs and steal 70 bases in a single season.
“Very happy, mostly that we were able to win,” Acuña said through an interpreter after the 6-5 victory. “I’m extremely happy to have created the 40-70 club.”
Acuña has 41 homers, extending a historic season that already saw him become the first 40-50 and 40-60 player. He is the second Braves player with 70 steals in a season since 1900, joining Otis Nixon in 1991 (72).
“It was one of those numbers that wasn’t impossible but seemed impossible,” Acuña said.
Atlanta erased deficits of 3-1, 4-3 and 5-4 against the Cubs, with Marcell Ozuna hitting a tying homer in the ninth before Acuña singled home Kevin Pillar to tie the game at 5 in the 10th. Then on the first pitch to Albies, Acuña took off for second, sliding safely in headfirst. He acknowledged the crowd, then took the base out of the ground and held it high above his head before sending it back to the dugout.
“It’s crazy what he’s done,” Albies said. “I told myself I need to come through right here. Whatever it takes. I’m happy I came through in that spot and we won that game.”
Added Acuña: “Super emotional game. It felt like a playoff atmosphere. This is a preview to what could be in the postseason.”
By clinching the NL’s top seed, the Braves will have home-field advantage through the National League Championship Series should they advance that far. Atlanta (102-56) needs one win to guarantee home-field advantage through the World Series.
“It’s great if we get past the first round,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “We had it in 2021 against the Dodgers, which is big. You play a team like that, you want to play as many games as you can here.”
The loss was the second heartbreaker in a row for the Cubs, who are battling for their playoff lives in the NL wild-card race.
Chicago dropped into a tie with the Miami Marlins for the NL‘s third and final wild card at 82-76, but would lose a tiebreaker with them.
As meaningful as the win was for the Braves, it was secondary to Acuña’s historic night.
“That’s about as good as it gets,” Snitker said. “I thought it was great when he picked up the bag. The fans had to love that. We all did because it was a special moment.”
Ozuna had just one simple message regarding his teammate.
“I just say three words: MVP.
“It’s no doubt.”