Acuna’s lead-off homer sets tone as Atlanta powers past Miami to take NLDS lead

Ronald Acuna Jr. made history with his leadoff homer, Travis d’Arnaud hit a tie-breaking shot in a huge seventh inning and Atlanta beat the Miami Marlins 9-5 Tuesday in Game 1 of the NL Division Series.

D’Arnaud also doubled and singled in driving in four runs and Dansby Swanson homered during a six-run seventh to help power Atlanta.

After shutting out Cincinnati for 22 innings during a two-game sweep in the wild-card round, the winners relied on their bats in this opener.

Game 2 of the best-of-five series is on Wednesday in Houston.

Atlanta trailed 4-3 in the seventh before Austin Riley and Acuna hit consecutive singles with no outs to chase Miami starter Sandy Alcantara.

Yimi Garcia took over and Freddie Freeman grounded into a forceout that left runners at the corners. Marcell Ozuna lined a single to left that made it 4-all.

Then d’Arnaud, in his first season with Atlanta, belted a slider over the fence in centre field for a three-run drive that made it 7-4. The shot caused the Braves dugout to erupt with Acuna jumping over the railing to celebrate.

D’Arnaud, who played for the Mets, Dodgers and Rays last year, began the day as a .169 career hitter in the post-season, striking out 27 times in 83 at-bats.

But Atlanta wasn’t done yet.

James Hoyt replaced Garcia with one out and Swanson sent his first pitch off the wall in centre field for a two-run homer.

Acuna got things going for Atlanta in the bottom of the first when he sent Alcantara’s second pitch into right-centre for a homer. He watched it for a second before flipping his bat and rounding the bases as he became the youngest player (22 years, 293 days old) in post-season history with a leadoff home run.

Atlanta, who has long dominated the Marlins in the NL East, improved to 3-0 this post-season after sweeping the Reds in the wild-card for their first playoff series win since 2001.

The Marlins overcame a coronavirus outbreak that sidelined more than half the team in July to make the playoffs for the first time since 2003 before sweeping their wild-card series against the Cubs.

And the scrappy Marlins, who lost 105 games in 2019, looked good early in this one, using a three-run third inning to take a 4-1 lead. But their offence stalled after that and Atlanta scored two in the third to get within one before putting Miami away with their home run barrage in the seventh.

Atlanta got the win despite a tough start from Max Fried, who allowed six hits and a season-high four runs in just four innings. He was picked up by a bevy of relievers who allowed just one run over the last five innings. Will Smith pitched a perfect seventh for the win.

Alcantara yielded eight hits and five runs with eight strikeouts in six-plus inning.

Atlanta’s scoreless streak in the playoffs ended early in this one when Miguel Rojas homered to the seats in left field to make it 1-all in the second.





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