ATLANTA (AP) — Ronald Acuña Jr. homered for the seventh time in 11 games, Eddie Rosario went deep and drove in three runs and the major league-leading Atlanta Braves beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-2 on Friday night.
The Braves (92-48) have won two straight following a three-game skid.
Atlanta took a 4-0 lead in the third on soft hits — Rosario’s RBI single, Travis d’Arnaud’s two-run single and Orlando Arcia’s RBI single. Arcia had the hardest-hit single at 83.1 mph. D’Arnaud’s dropped in front of left fielder Jack Suwinski at 71 mph.
“It's kind of a testament to how far we've come as a team,” manager Brian Snitker said. “Last year we would've struck out three times. If you put the ball in play, something good can happen. A lot of teams do that to us. Even though we're a power team, if you're not striking out ... I just think it shows our growth as a team and offense."
Acuña put that trend to rest in the fourth, driving his 35th homer 455 feet to center with an exit velocity of 110.6 mph to make it 5-0. Rosario followed four batters later with his 21st long ball, a two-run shot to right for a 7-0 lead.
Acuña, who tacked on an RBI single in the fifth, is bidding to become the first player in major league history with a 40-homer, 60-stolen base season. He has swiped a majors-high 63 bases.
“One of the best players I've ever seen in my entire life," Rosario said through a translator. “To me, it'd be like comparing him to Roberto Clemente. May God keep blessing him and hopefully he has a great career.”
After Atlanta's Bryce Elder let Ji-Hwan Bae lead off the game with a double, the All-Star right-hander retired 14 of the next 15 batters he faced, the only exception a leadoff walk to Alfonso Rivas in the third. Rivas singled with two out in the fifth before Elder struck out Alika Williams.
Elder (12-4) gave up four hits and two runs with a season-high nine strikeouts through seven innings, the first runs coming on Suwinski's 24th homer that trimmed the lead to 8-2 in the sixth. Since losing 7-5 at Pittsburgh on Aug. 10, Elder is 4-0 with a 2.30 ERA over his last five starts.
“I’m obviously never going to be a strikeout guy, but I think when I can execute certain pitches it allows me to get strikeouts when I need them,” Elder said. “I rarely get nine so I’m going to take it.”
The Braves' first eight runs were charged to Mitch Keller, who had gone 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA in his previous five starts before dropping to 0-4 with a 9.97 ERA in five career starts against Atlanta.
Keller (11-9) allowed 12 hits and eight runs to tie a career high in five innings.
“Their one through nine can all do it,” Keller said. “They’re going to take their single when they can and take their hit when they can. We know they can do that. Unfortunate where the balls went and I gave up two homers.”
Pittsburgh, which has the youngest roster in the majors, had won seven of nine. The Pirates are fourth in the NL Central.
Braves: 3B Austin Riley, out for the second straight game with an illness, ran on the field before the game, but Snitker decided to rest the two-time All-Star and let Nicky Lopez handle third. Snitker said Riley was available to pinch-hit. Riley had played in all 138 games prior to Thursday. ... C Sean Murphy got a second straight day off as Snitker wanted d'Arnaud to play two nights in a row.
The Braves are 16-4 against the Pirates at Truist Park, which opened in 2017. Atlanta has won eight straight and 14 of 15 home games versus Pittsburgh.
Atlanta 1B Matt Olson had homered in four straight games, one shy of tying his career high set in 2017 with Oakland. He leads the majors with 47 long balls, tying him with Hank Aaron (1971) and Eddie Mathews (1953) for the second-most in franchise history. Andruw Jones, who will have his number retired Saturday, holds the Braves' season record, going deep 51 times in 2005.
Atlanta has yet to announce a starter for Saturday. RHP Johan Oviedo (8-14, 4.27 ERA) was set to l take the mound for Pittsburgh.
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