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Braves star Ronald Acuña Jr. bolsters MVP campaign with remarkable showing in series win over Dodgers

Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. had a monster showing this weekend against the Dodgers. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. had a monster showing this weekend against the Dodgers. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Ronald Acuña Jr.'s past few days have been the stuff of cinema.

The Atlanta Braves star has been the National League MVP favorite for the majority of this season. But at the end of August, betting odds favored Mookie Betts of the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the award. That shift came at the beginning of last week, setting the perfect stage for Acuña's play to make a statement in a series against Betts' Dodgers.

The series was always bound to be exciting: The NL-leading Braves against the similarly dominant Dodgers, who have an 83-52 record this season and played better than any other team in the majors last month.

Before the Braves lost 3-1 on Sunday, Acuña had already reached more milestones in three games than many players could dream of accomplishing in their entire careers. His showing was so impressive that Sunday's outcome seemed like a blip.

The 25-year-old started on a spectacular note in the opener Thursday, hitting a grand slam that powered the Braves to an 8-7 victory and made him the first player to combine 30 home runs and 60 stolen bases in a season.

Acuña's grand slam, hit off Dodgers pitcher Lance Lynn in the second inning, was also the 150th home run of his career. He is just the second player in major-league history to notch 150 homers and 150 steals by age 25 or younger; Mike Trout was the first. Barry Bonds (1990) and Eric Davis (1987) came close, reaching those tallies before their 26th birthdays.

The Dodgers presented Acuña with a commemorative base to honor the achievement via former teammate Freddie Freeman, but the day had sentimental value for another major reason. The Venezuelan outfielder married his longtime girlfriend, Maria Laborde, before the game.

He reportedly kept a ticket from Thursday night's contest and presented it to his bride after inscribing it with the following message, written in Spanish:

"For the rest of my life, I hope you never forget this incredibly special day for us."

The dramatic series campaign continued Friday when the Braves secured another win 6-3. In that one, Acuña recorded his 31st homer and stole his 63rd base. It was his 10th game with a steal and a home run, which leads the majors.

The 418-foot home run came in the third inning against Julio Urías. In the fifth, Acuña doubled, stole third and scored on a double from Austin Riley.

Seemingly upping the stakes each night, Acuña hit a 454-foot home run Saturday with the hardest-hit ball in the majors this season. It came off the bat at 121.2 mph, according to MLB Statcast. It was the third-hardest-hit homer and sixth-hardest-hit ball since Statcast began tracking MLB stats in 2015.

He homered at Dodger Stadium for the third consecutive night to give the Braves a 1-0 lead with one out in the third inning. The team went on to win 4-2.

"They asked if that was all I had, and I said, 'I think so,'" Acuña reportedly joked with his teammates in the dugout.

All of this from Acuña comes as a lesson in perseverance, as last season was uncharacteristic for the star, who was returning from a torn ACL.

His MVP campaign continues Tuesday, when the Braves host the St. Louis Cardinals in the opener of a three-game series.