Arcia made an early-than-expected comeback from the injured list just in time to be a part of one of the Braves’ most exciting and satisfying victories of his youth season. He and Acuña put together stellar defensive plays before Harris’s game-winning single in a 3-2 12-inning win over the Orioles on Sunday afternoon at Truist Park.
To see them walk [Marcell] “Ozuna and I want to confront me, you set me on fire,” Harris said. “I got a good first putt and tried to hit it hard, and it did.”
After the Orioles intentionally walked Ozuna to create a double play situation with robot runner Ozzie Albies on second and one out, Harris drilled Cionel Pérez’s first slider off the left field wall. It was the first hit for the National League rookie of the year, who has struggled with multiple illnesses this year.
Harris missed three weeks due to lower back pain, returned for a week and then missed two games after jamming his right knee during Wednesday’s game in Miami. He returned to the lineup on Sunday wearing a knee brace that didn’t limit the quarterback offensively or defensively.
“Michael hasn’t had a lot of a hit since he came back,” said Braves manager Brian Snicker. “It will be fine when those start piling on him.”
Harris was expected to return sometime this weekend. But recently, like Friday, the Braves have thought Arcia might need another 10-14 days to recover from the broken left wrist he suffered on April 12. And some good Friday and Saturday workouts speeded up the schedule and helped make Atlanta’s roster look as healthy as it’s been for most of the season.
The Braves took two out of three during this potential World Series preview. Atlanta has an NL-Best record of 24-11, and even with the back-to-back losses, the Orioles still have the third best record in MLB (22-12).
“We just struggled this weekend, and we’re thrilled to win the series,” said Harris.
Along with hitting the game-winning hit, Harris helped Acuña by telling him Austin Hayes was tagging from second base trying to reach third base on Adam Frazier’s flyout to start the eleventh inning.
“I was telling him he was tagging, but I was thinking in my head, ‘I don’t know why he’s tagging,’” Harris said. “I mean this guy is the most accurate, and he bowled 100.” [mph] From outside. I don’t know why he was testing him.”
Acuña’s accurate hard throw denied Hayes’ attempt and helped the Braves complete a stellar afternoon. Atlanta relief teams ran 6 1/3 innings, and the only run scored during this span came when Baltimore’s automatic runner Anthony Santander scored to start the tenth inning.
“I always expect runners to go,” Acuña said through a translator. “So I just try throwing in, and they come out on their own.”
Acuña entered Sunday ranked second among all MLB players in fWAR (2.1) and average arm strength (95.8 mph). No longer limited by the lingering effects of 2021 knee surgery, he is once again a top NL MVP candidate.
Arcia may not fit the same description, but his return will certainly impress a team that has managed to persevere with Vaughn Grissom as the shortest stop over the past three weeks. Arcia’s impact was felt with one out in the tenth, when he sent a sharp hitter to Gunnar Henderson and made a quick throw to third base to retire Jorge Mateo.
“I love the fact that he has the confidence to put on a play,” Snicker said. “That was huge. Anything could happen. He had an incredible game at shortstop.”
Although no injury was detected, there is some doubt Max Fried will make his next scheduled start. But with catcher Travis D’Arnaud likely to return two days later from the injured list, the Braves began to fully emerge again.
“I couldn’t sleep until last night with the excitement of being back on this team,” Arcia said through a translator.
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