Ronald Acuna Jr. joins exclusive 40-40 club, Morton leaves game in 1st as Braves beat Nationals 9-6


WASHINGTON (AP) — Ronald Acuna Jr. joined the exclusive 40-40 club, pitcher Charlie Morton left the game in the first inning and the Atlanta Braves beat the Washington Nationals 9-6 on Friday night.

With the win, Atlanta moves four games ahead of the Dodgers for the top seed in the National League. The Braves hold the tiebreaker over Los Angeles based on a 4-3 season series.

Acuna’s 40th homer led off the game against Nats left-hander Patrick Corbin. The blast was Acuna’s 34th leadoff home run in his career and eighth this season. He is the first player to have 40 homers and at least 60 stolen bases in one season.

“I am extremely happy," Acuna said through a translator. "Honestly, rounding the bases I don’t know if I was more nervous or excited.

“It’s pretty incredible and just think of how many players have played in the big leagues and my name is alone. But I’m hoping, and I’m sure someone will break that record, too.”

Acuna joins Alphonso Soriano (2006), Alex Rodriguez (1998), Barry Bonds (1996) and Jose Canseco (1988) in hitting 40 home runs and stealing 40 bases.

“It’s elite company, that’s for sure,” manager Brian Snitker said. “I’m just glad I got a front row seat to watch it.”

Acuna also doubled and scored three runs. He has hit safely in 14 of his last 15 games, with eight homers and 15 runners batted in during that span. His 143 runs scored are the most since Rodriguez also tallied 143 runs in his 2007 most valuable player campaign.

“He’s healthy,” Snitker said. “He wasn’t healthy last year and he has been from the get go this year. I think that’s a product of him doing what he can do because he’s healthy again.”

Austin Riley hit a two-run home run off Corbin and finished with four runners batted in. Marcel Ozuna added a three-run shot in the seventh.

Morton walked two batters and left the game due to right index finger discomfort after throwing 24 pitches in the first inning. Snitker said Morton will have an MRI on Saturday. The right-hander hopes to be ready for the postseason.

“This is more a question about effectiveness," Morton said. "I can pitch. I can go out there and pitch but the next start I make is probably going to be in the postseason, if I had to guess. It’s not a game in late May or early August. It’s going to be the biggest of the season. That’s where the frustration comes in and the question mark comes in.”

Michael Tonkin (7-2) earned the win with two innings of work, allowing one run. Raisel Iglesias earned his 30th save.

Corbin (10-14) lasted 4 1/3 innings, surrendering five runs on five hits, including both homers, with one walk and one strikeout. CJ Abrams went 2-for-4 with a double, three runners batted in. The Nationals are 7-18 since August 27.


The Braves placed left handed pitcher Max Fried on the 15-day injured list with a blister on his left index finger and recalled right handed pitcher Darius Vines from Triple-A.

Snitker said Fried can continue to throw and believes the left-hander will be ready to start when the playoffs begin.

“He will be able to come off right before the Division Series,” Snitker said. “Hopefully, he makes his start in that series and he can continue to throw now. It was bad enough where he wasn’t going to make his next start. It’s just kind of unfortunate.”

The Nationals placed right handed pitcher Jake Irvin was placed on the 15-day injured list with right ankle tendinitis. Left handed pitcher Joe La Sorsa was recalled from Triple-A.


Nats left-handed closer Sean Doolittle announced his retirement Friday after eleven seasons. He won a World Series with Washington in 2019. Doolittle decided to give up on his season-long rehab after injuring his right knee again this summer in Florida.

“There were times where I have been like, ‘man, I’m never going to play again,'" Doolittle said. “That is sad. But I’ve been so lucky that as I look back on those moments, the gratitude outweighs the sadness.”


Saturday’s game has been postponed. Sunday will be a split doubleheader at 1:35 p.m. and 6:35 p.m. Snitker said right handed pitcher Kyle Wright and right handed pitcher Spencer Strider will pitch Sunday but did not reveal order.