By PAUL NEWBERRY, AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — Perfect games? Unassisted triple plays? They’re not even as rare as what Ronald Acuna Jr. pulled off Monday night.
His legend growing with each game, the 20-year-old rookie hit leadoff homers in both games of a doubleheader to lead the first-place Atlanta Braves to a sweep of the Miami Marlins.
Acuna appeared to be only the fourth player in baseball history to accomplish the feat, and certainly the youngest.
Two others, Rickey Henderson and Harry Hooper, are in the Hall of Fame.
By comparison, there have been 23 perfect games and 15 unassisted triple plays.
“It’s pretty special,” said Braves star Freddie Freeman, who also homered in Game 2. “He’s some kind of hot right now. What he’s doing at the plate, you just don’t see it very often.”
Acuna hit an opposite-field drive into the Braves’ bullpen in the opener, powering Atlanta to a 9-1 victory. Haitian-American Touki Toussaint pitched six strong innings to claim the win in his major league debut.
It was more of the same from Acuna in the nightcap. He sent a towering shot into the seats in left-center, sparking the Braves to a 6-1 win behind another strong outing on the mound from Mike Foltynewicz.
Over the course of about nine hours, Acuna went 5-for-8 with two homers, five RBIs, five runs, two walks and a stolen base.
“I just found out,” he said through a translator when asked if he knew about his unique double. “I give thanks to God for the opportunity to make history in my own sense.”
The Elias Sports Bureau said Baltimore’s Brady Anderson was the last to hit a pair of leadoff homers in one day against the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 21, 1999.
Before that, it was accomplished by Oakland’s Henderson against the Cleveland Indians on July 5, 1993. Hooper did it more than a century ago, playing for the Boston Red during a pair of games at the Washington Senators on May 20, 1913.
“Freddie and I were just kind of standing there smiling at each other like, ‘Again?'” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s been fun to watch.”
The Braves stretched their lead in the NL East to a full game over idle Philadelphia.
It was a totally forgettable day and night for the hapless Marlins, who struggled in all phases of the game. Poor hitting. Shaky pitching. Shoddy baserunning. Sloppy defense.
Acuna has flourished since moving into the leadoff role for the Braves. He has 17 homers this season — four of them leading off games.
Foltynewicz (10-7) matched his career high for wins and even chipped in with an RBI single — only his third hit of the season. He went eight innings, allowing five hits and the lone Miami run.
Merandy Gonzalez (2-1) took the loss after being called up from Double-A Jacksonville for his first big league start.
Freeman connected on his 19th homer of season. He’s piled up big numbers against the Marlins, hitting .434 with seven homers and 15 RBIs in 13 meetings.
Looking cool as can be on a sweltering summer afternoon in Atlanta, Toussaint took full advantage of his temporary promotion to serve as the team’s 26th player in the opening game. He surrendered just two hits and limited the damage from his only serious jam to a single run.
Toussaint (1-0) was born in Florida but moved to Haiti just a few months later, living there for about eight years. He returned to Florida after his parents split up and gave baseball a try.
He hopes word of his success gets back to Haiti, an impoverished Caribbean nation that has no passion for baseball and has never sent a native-born player to the majors.
“To be able to play on this stage, to be able to represent my country, it’s definitely humbling,” Toussaint said. “Hopefully kids see that, go ahead and take a shot at it.”
Acuna staked his fellow rookie to a quick lead with the homer off Pablo Lopez (2-3). Acuna added a two-run double in the sixth, highlighting a five-run outburst that turned the game into a blowout.
Toussaint wasn’t a big fan of baseball the first time he played.
“I was terrible,” Toussaint recalled. “I had 24 at-bats and struck out like 22 times.”
He took up pitching at a relatively late age, getting serious during his sophomore year of high school. He quickly blossomed into a top prospect and was picked in the first round by Arizona in 2014.
Miami 3B Martin Prado is headed back to the DL with yet another injury. He was lifted for a pinch-hitter after straining his left quadriceps sometime in the first two innings of Game 1.
It wasn’t clear how Prado was hurt, but he’s played only 53 games this season because of recurring hamstring issues. Last year, he was limited to a career-low 37 games because of injuries.
“It didn’t sound too severe,” manager Don Mattingly said.
Adding to the Marlins’ misery, Prado’s replacement was injured in Game 2. Miguel Rojas sustained a left ankle contusion while getting thrown out at third base to end the second inning.
Marlins: RHP Trevor Richards (3-7, 3.98) gets the nod when the NL East rivals meet again on Tuesday.
Braves: RHP Anibal Sanchez (6-3, 2.83) returns to the mound after going only two innings in his most recent start. Sanchez had to leave last Thursday’s game at Washington after being struck on the leg with a liner up the middle.