By PAUL NEWBERRY, AP Sports Columnist
ATLANTA (AP) — Ronald Acuna Jr. is good for baseball. Jose Urena and his defenders are not. Jose, take the rest of the season off.
And while you’re at it, take Keith Hernandez with you.
In a nod to the bad ol’ days when it was apparently acceptable to plunk a guy who was playing too well, Urena unleashed a 97 mph fastball to Acuna’s left forearm with his very first pitch of Wednesday night’s game in Atlanta.
Fortunately, it appears Acuna escaped serious injury. The Braves said X-rays on his elbow were negative and results of further tests would be announced on Thursday.
Nevertheless, Major League Baseball should act swiftly to show that this sort of barbarism will not be tolerated in the national pastime.
Urena deserves to be suspended for the rest of the season.
Urena apparently thought it was perfectly acceptable to assault — hey, let’s call it what it was — one of the game’s shining young stars, a 20-year-old who plays the game with pure joy and great skill for the first-place Braves.
Going deep four times in the previous three games against the woeful Miami Marlins (and homering in five straight games overall), a remarkable run that included one of baseball’s rarest feats — a pair of leadoff homers in Monday’s doubleheader sweep by Atlanta.
Acuna started Tuesday’s game with his third straight leadoff homer.
Urena made sure the streak didn’t reach four before the Marlins left town.
“This young man is just playing the game, doing what he loves to do,” said Brian Snitker, the Braves’ manager. “It’s a damn shame.”
Urena was ejected. So was Snitker for leading his team onto the field to confront the Miami pitcher.
After the game, won by the Braves 5-2 to complete a four-game sweep, the manager was still fuming.
“It’s beyond … I don’t know,” Snitker said, struggling to find words in the non-profanity category. “I’ve had three hours to calm down and all of a sudden I’m not real good right now.”
Snitker’s counterpart, Miami manager Don Mattingly, hardly came to his pitcher’s defense.
“This kid’s swinging the bat good. We’ve got to figure out how to get him out,” Mattingly said. “That’s what we said to Jose. I don’t want to see this kid get hit. He’s a great player. He’s going to be great for a long time. He’s beat us up. But this is not the way we want to handle that situation.”