The flags, bells, and whistles that waved at David Ortiz, Tony Oliva, and Minnie Miñoso at the Baseball Hall of Fame Inductions last month would have fit perfectly at CitiField Friday night.
Latino stars dominated from the first inning, when Atlanta left-fielder Eddie Rosario slammed a three-run homer against Taijuan Walker of the Mets to finalize a four-spot and give the Braves a lead they never lost.
Fighting for their lives in a National League East race dominated by the Mets all season, the Braves parlayed their Latin American contingent into a juggernaut that held the persistent Mets in check.
Ronald Acuña, Jr. showed signs of emerging from a two-month slump with a four-hit game, a stolen base, and a leaping catch that prevented a two-run homer by Pete Alonso, the slugging Latino first baseman of the Mets.
Rosario, proving he’s recovered from an early-season eye problem that required surgical repair, collected four runs batted in as he helped the Braves build an early 8-0 lead.
The eight runs, all earned, were charged against Walker, who had been the Mets’ most consistent starter.
A ninth run scored in the ninth when William Contreras, who joined Acuña in starting the All-Star Game for the National League, banged a solo home run, his 14th, against Tommy Hunter.
Atlanta added more Latin power on the pitching side. Raisel Iglesias, acquired from the Angels at the trade deadline, blanked New York in the eighth after yielding a leadoff double to Thomas Nido. One inning later, Kenley Jansen gave up a solo home run to Jeff McNeil after fanning Alonso but it was too little and too late.
The win narrowed Atlanta’s deficit to three-and-a-half games on the eve of a day/night doubleheader Saturday. Counting those games, the Mets and Braves still play each other 10 times, including the final three games of the season at Atlanta’s Truist Park.
By then, the Braves will bring even more Latin power to the equation with the return of injured sparkplug second baseman Ozzie Albies, sidelined for months with a fractured foot.
Before the game, Latino Sports asked Braves broadcaster Chip Caray about Acuna’s power outage, which had lasted 74 at-bats before he connected Thursday night. Caray said it might be wise to move Acuna down in the order and elevate Rookie of the Year contender Michael Harris II to the leadoff spot. But then he tempered his remarks.
“I’m not sure he could handle it,” he said of Harris, the youngest player in the majors at age 21.
Harris homered and threw a runner out at the plate Friday night with a mighty throw from center field, where he has already been compared to former Braves star Andruw Jones, a Curacao native.
Curacao is among numerous Latin countries celebrating Atlanta’s Friday night victory.
Acuña, Contreras, and backup infielder Ehire Adrianza are from Venezuela; Atlanta DH Marcell Ozuna is Dominican; Albies and Jansen are from Curacao; and Iglesias and Braves outfield sub Guillermo Heredia come from Cuba.
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