MIAMI — The National League won't have Ronald Acuña Jr. starting in right field as planned at Tuesday night's MLB All-Star Game in Denver.
The Atlanta Braves have to make a much bigger adjustment: playing without their speedy slugger for the remainder of the season.
The 23-year-old from Venezuela, a two-time All-Star, tore the ACL in his right knee in the fifth inning of Atlanta's 5-3 victory over the Miami Marlins on Saturday. An MRI showed the severity of the injury and the Braves made the announcement hours after the game, finishing the year for one of the most dynamic players in the majors.
"I knew something was wrong, but I didn't know the severity of it until the doctor notified me later on," Acuña said Sunday through an interpreter. "I have no control over what happened and just have to do my best to come back stronger than ever."
Speaking before Sunday's series finale at Miami — the Marlins won 7-4 to avoid being swept in the three game set between the NL East Division rivals — Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said the injury "is just another punch in the gut that we have to endure" in what has been a tough season for his team's health.
"He's a young strong guy, he'll recover great and he'll continue a Hall of Fame career when he's done," added Snitker, whose three-time reigning division champions fell to 44-45 entering the All-Star break and have not been above .500 at any point this season.
Snitker said he did have a very good conversation with Acuña shortly after the MRI results were received.
"He was in great spirits. He had a lot of rehab and procedural questions," said Snitker, adding that the conversation "was better than I anticipated, quite honestly. There's a lot of unknowns for someone who has never been through something like that."
No timetable has been set for the surgery.
Snitker said the Braves will not use of the loss of Acuña as an excuse in the second half of the season.
'We just have to continue to play," the manager said. "We have to rally the forces and continue to go. That's what you do in our business; you just keep going."
Acuña landed awkwardly on his right leg after jumping on the warning track in right field trying to catch a drive from Jazz Chisholm Jr. in the fifth inning of Saturday's game. He slammed into the outfield wall and crumbled on the warning track, immediately grabbing his right knee while Chisholm sprinted for an inside-the-park homer.
Acuña, who made his MLB debut in 2018 and was the NL's rookie of the year that season, was hitting .283 with 24 home runs and 52 RBIs this season.
"I know the team needs me and I want to be there for them," Acuña said, "but I have the utmost confidence in them, and I know they will do great."
The team recalled utility player Johan Camargo from Triple-A Gwinnett and placed Acuña on the 60-day injured list Sunday, when Ehire Adrianza started in right and batted leadoff for the Braves. Adrianza went 0-for-4.
Atlanta heads to the break in third place in the NL East, 4 1/2 games behind the division-leading New York Mets (47-40), with the Philadelphia Phillies (44-44) in second.
López sets record
Marlins right-hander Pablo López set an MLB record Sunday by striking out the first nine batters to start a game, making his mark on the one-year anniversary of his father's death.
"There were a lot of emotions and mixed feelings out there today," López said after Miami ended a three-game losing streak with the 7-4 win. "My dad meant so much to me in my progression"
López struck out Adrianza, Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies swinging in the first inning. He then fanned Austin Riley, Orlando Arcia and Dansby Swanson swinging in the second inning. In the third, Guillermo Heredia looked at strike three, Kevan Smith went down swinging and Ian Anderson was called out on strikes.
The 25-year-old from Venezuela broke the mark of eight straight strikeouts to begin a game set by Jim Deshaies in 1986 and matched by Jacob deGrom in 2014 and German Marquez in 2018.
López (5-5) threw 30 of his first 35 pitches for strikes. The Venezuelan began the day with 102 strikeouts in 95 innings in 18 starts this season.
Adrianza became the first Atlanta hitter to put a ball in play when he grounded out on an 0-1 pitch to begin the fourth. Freeman doubled for the Braves' first hit, setting up RBI singles by Albies and Arcia.
Swanson went deep twice and heads to the break with 15 homers.
"We had a little run there, and I thought we might get back in it, but it didn't happen," Snitker said.
López gave up three runs in six innings — he did not strike out a batter in his final three innings — allowed five hits and walked two batters, with 65 of his 83 pitches for strikes.
Jesus Aguilar hit a three-run homer in the first inning off Atlanta's Anderson (5-5), who lasted just 2 1/3 innings and gave up four runs on six hits and five walks. Jesus Sanchez tripled, doubled and singled for Miami, and Miguel Rojas also had three hits.