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Braves fall to Royals as Acuña, Jr. leaves early

The loss to Kansas City hurts, but Ronald Acuña, Jr.’s health is more important

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Philadelphia Phillies Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Braves have already punched their ticket to the playoffs, but they’ve still got a few games to go before the regular season is over. On a night that saw Julio Teheran have one of his worst starts of the year, and that also saw another crucial lineup piece depart early, the Braves fell to the Royals 9-6. The Braves fall to 96-62, while the Royals improve to 58-100. They are now, somehow, 3-0 against the Braves this season.

In news that could have a huge impact on the Braves’ playoff run, Ronald Acuña, Jr. was pulled from the game in the top of the third inning. The team announced this was related to right hip tightness, and that his removal was a precautionary measure. The team needs to do whatever they can to ensure Acuña, Jr, will be healthy for the NLDS and beyond, so if a few days rest is the cure, then so be it.

Speaking of the playoffs, with the Braves starting to look ahead to their postseason rotation, there is little margin for error for any of the starters. Julio Teheran may have just made the team’s decision a little easier, as he allowed six runs and six hits tonight while only recording seven outs. The shape of the playoff bullpen was also likely influenced by tonight’s game, with Anthony Swarzak doing his best to eliminate himself from the conversation, and Darren O’Day trying to keep himself relevant.

Ozzie Albies had a three hit night, his 18th of the season. The last of these hits was a two-run home run in the ninth, giving him 24 on the season.

Whit Merrifield set the tone for Teheran’s night with a 13-pitch at bat to lead off the game. He reached on a single then came around to score on a Hunter Dozier sacrifice fly. This at-bat accounted for 45% of the pitches in a 29 pitch first inning. The damage stayed limited to one run during this frame.

The first inning was a controlled adventure, but the third inning was where it turned into a nightmare. After the Royals strung together a walk, two singles, a hit by pitch, and a sacrifice fly to push the score to 3-0, Bubba Starling slapped a two-run double to left, then came around to score on an errant throw from Brian McCann. And just like that, the Braves were down 6-0. Grant Dayton was summoned to put out the fire.

Fourth inning doubles from Ozzie Albies and Nick Markakis brought the Braves back to within five, then a fifth inning home run from Francisco Cervelli made it 6-2. After a bases loaded walk to Markakis in the fifth brought the go-ahead run to the plate, it looked like the Braves might inch closer, but a pop up from Adam Duvall ended the threat.

The Royals jumped on Anthony Swarzak in the sixth inning, dropping two runs on and digging the Braves offense an even deeper hole. With his recent struggles - 17 earned runs over his last 17 innings - it’s probably safe to say we won’t be hearing much from Anthony in October.

While it’s always nice to clinch the division with some breathing room, as the Braves did on Friday, sometimes too long of a break can be a detriment for a young team trying to maintain its focus. Hopefully by next week, the adrenaline that comes with the playoffs will help the Braves shake the general malaise that seemed to befall them on this night.

These two teams will face each other again tomorrow night at 8:15pm ET.

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