Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins: A Budding NL East Rivalry

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - SEPTEMBER 06: Right fielder Ronald Acuna, Jr. #13 and second baseman Ozzie Albies #1 of the Atlanta Braves celebrate after the game against the Washington Nationals at SunTrust Park on September 06, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - SEPTEMBER 06: Right fielder Ronald Acuna, Jr. #13 and second baseman Ozzie Albies #1 of the Atlanta Braves celebrate after the game against the Washington Nationals at SunTrust Park on September 06, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images) /
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How a Ronald Acuna Jr. bat-flip home run and resulting hit by pitch added intensity to this budding Miami Marlins-Atlanta Braves NL East rivalry.

While the Atlanta Braves swept NL East foe Miami Marlins in the NLDS, this series didn’t lack the feel of a divisional rivalry.

Atlanta jumped out to a 1-0 series lead with some heavy offense in the 9-5 victory kicking off the NLDS. And, as the intensity of playoff emotions ticked up, there was no love lost between these two divisional foes.

Ronald Acuna Jr. stepped up to the plate to lead off the bottom of the first inning at the neutral Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. On the second pitch of the game from Marlins starter Sandy Alcantara, Acuna drilled a 428-foot opposite-field home run. With the gigantic shot, the Braves took an early 1-0 lead.

While Acuna watched his home run clear the fence, there was a subdued bat flip. Yes, he was emphatic running around the bases, but remember this is playoff baseball.

Tempers flared in his Acuna’s next trip to the plate. Alcantara drilled Acuna with a 98-mph heater and the two exchanged choice words down the baseline. The umpire crew issued warnings to both dugouts following this heated exchange.

Of course, fans will disagree about the intent of his drilling, but one thing remains clear. Acuna and the Braves took offense to this.

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By the end of game one, the Braves offense exploded for nine runs, erasing a three-run deficit in the process.

Travis d’Arnaud offered the Braves’ biggest punch, putting Atlanta ahead 7-4 with a three-run homer to center field in the 7th. Dansby Swanson capped the comeback with his two-run homer leading the Braves to an important game one victory.

The drama continued during media interviews and on social media following the final pitch. Acuna took to Twitter to trash talk the Marlins pitching staff, declaring “They have to hit me because they can’t get me out.”

During Alcantara’s postgame interview, he punched back telling Acuna, “if he’s ready to fight, then I am too.”

Fans will be glued to their seats for the remainder of the NLDS to see if the intensity of this rivalry is taken to the next level. Of course, this rivalry runs deeper.

With both teams playing the NL East Division, these two teams saw a lot of each other in 2020. The Braves and Marlins met 10 times in the regular season, with the Braves winning six of these contests. Notably, one of these Braves’ wins including a 29-run outburst. This outburst marked a modern-era NL record in runs scored.

Atlanta sports broadcaster Wes Blankenship also pointed out that Acuna has grown accustomed to getting drilled by Marlins pitching. In fact, throughout his career, Acuna has been drilled five different times while playing against Miami.

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The Miami Marlins and Atlanta Braves are both laden with young talent, indicating both squads have playoff aspirations for years to come. Chapter one of the Marlins-Braves rivalry may have been already written when Acuna was drilled during game one last week, but fans can expect more to be written in this budding NL East rivalry.