5 things to know from the weekend in MLB: Here's how Braves are going to cope after Ronald Acuña's heartbreaking injury

Other observations: Expect Guardians to stay hot, Cardinals aren't dead yet, and is mutiny afoot with White Sox?

A lot of baseball happens in a weekend. This time around saw a gut-punch injury to one of the game’s best players, statement series victories from scuffling NL Central clubs and a potential mini-mutiny for MLB’s worst team.

Here’s what you need to know from the weekend across MLB.

Devastation and déjà vu: For the second time in four years, Braves superstar outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr has a torn ACL.

In the first inning of Atlanta’s Sunday game against Pittsburgh, the reigning NL MVP went down in a heap while bluffing an otherwise innocuous fake steal of third. He spent minutes on the ground clutching his left knee before being helped off the field with a grimace on his face.

Postgame imaging confirmed the worst: Acuña has a complete ACL tear in his left knee. The Braves announced in a statement that Acuña will undergo surgery and miss the remainder of the season. It’s the second ACL tear of the 26-year-old’s career, as he ruptured the same ligament in his right knee leaping for a fly ball in July 2021. That injury kept Acuña out for the remainder of that season; he watched from the dugout as the Braves captured the franchise’s first World Series title in more than two decades.

Sunday’s injury is a brutal blow for the team and the man. The already struggling Braves now face four months without their best player, while Acuña must endure another lengthy rehab — but it’s also a massive loss for the entire sport. A locked-in, rip-roaring, blazing on all cylinders version of Acuña is one of baseball's most electrifying characters. He showed last season, with an unprecedented 41-homer, 73-steal, unanimous MVP campaign, the scope and scale of his unfettered talents. A league without a fully operational Acuña is a less interesting, less enjoyable league. His absence will be loud.

The Braves, who sit six games behind Philadelphia in the division race, must now trudge forward without their most dynamic offensive player. It’s more bad news for a lineup that has struggled mightily in May. Only the Cubs, White Sox and Reds have scored fewer runs this month. The impending returns of third baseman Austin Riley (out since May 12) and catcher Sean Murphy (out since Opening Day) will help offset the loss of Acuña, but this was a unit in need of a jolt before its leadoff man hit the turf at PNC Park.

In the short term, the Braves are likely to make Adam Duvall — who has been platooning in left field this season with Jarred Kelenic — the every-day right fielder. Kelenic would then become the regular left fielder. Don’t expect Marcell Ozuna, a former outfielder who has exclusively DH-ed this season, to see much time in the grass. Forrest Wall, who has seen ample big-league time and is raking at Triple-A, is the likeliest roster add.

When Acuña went down in 2021, president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos reshaped his outfield with a flurry of midseason trades that brought in Jorge Soler, Joc Pederson and Eddie Rosario. That trio helped propel the Braves to a parade through the streets of Atlanta. Barring another injury, don’t expect such a dramatic overhaul this time around, but it’s likely that Anthopoulos seeks to add more outfield depth around the trade deadline.

Atlanta’s win Sunday salvaged a bad series loss to an inconsistent Pittsburgh team and pushed the Braves' record in May to a mediocre 10-11. A bumpy first career MLB start from Ray Kerr on Friday and a dominant showing from Pirates starter Mitch Keller on Saturday were enough to give the hosts the series. Meanwhile, an unlikely stumble from the en fuego Phillies against the lowly Rockies kept the gap steady at six games in the NL East, but Atlanta’s road to a seventh straight NL East title got much more formidable with Acuña on the shelf.

ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 24: Cleveland Guardians third baseman Jose Ramirez (11) hits a two run home run during the fourth inning of an MLB baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels played on May 24, 2024 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA. (Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Jose Ramírez hit three home runs in a three-game series against the Angels. Up next on the schedule for the surging Guardians, winners of nine straight: the Rockies. (Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

José Ramírez is on a heater at the right time.

The adopted son of Cleveland is hitting .313/.382/.738 with 10 homers since Guardians leadoff man Steven Kwan hit the IL on May 4. Over the weekend, Ramírez slugged three more homers and drove in seven runs against the Angels.

Lockdown performances from Cleveland's bullpen in nail-biting, one-run victories on Saturday and Sunday also helped carry the day.

The Guardos will look to continue their streak against relatively beatable Colorado and Washington teams this week.

On May 11, St. Louis was nine games under .500 and nine games back in the NL Central. Since then, the Birds are 10-2 and sit just 4.5 adrift in the division after two one-run wins over their rivals (Friday’s game was rained out and rescheduled for later this season).

One big story for St. Louis is that Paul Goldschmidt, who looked more cooked than a charred turducken a few weeks ago, has raged against the dying of the light. Everything looked more “normal” at Busch Stadium over the weekend, with a huge crowd roaring on a team that oozes inevitable victory. This club is officially back in the mix.

"Which of these many, many sub-.500 National League teams do you believe in the most?” has been a popular question around the baseball world this month. The Reds, who entered the weekend 10 games under .500, have been that question’s most popular answer and showed why this weekend, with a humongous home sweep of the juggernaut Dodgers.

An invigorating comeback Friday behind a go-ahead Jonathan India grand slam gave way to two excellent pitching performances on Saturday (Hunter Greene) and Sunday (bullpen game!). A strong offensive showing from the slow-starting Spencer Steer and spectacular defense in center field from Stuart Fairchild were two other highlights.

Cincy still has a ton of work to do, but the Reds have a chance to make a big statement this week in a fun showdown against the similarly surging Cardinals.

Chicago White Sox manager Pedro Grifol stands in the dugout during the first inning of a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins Tuesday, April 30, 2024, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Erin Hooley)
White Sox manager Pedro Grifol doesn't appear to see eye-to-eye with his clubhouse. (AP Photo/Erin Hooley)

Nobody should've been shocked that Chicago, MLB’s worst team, was beaten in four straight by Baltimore, one of MLB’s best teams. In fact, it was something of a moral victory that Chicago kept all four games close. They were not, in a season full of obliterations, embarrassed.

Yet Pedro Grifol, the manager of these discombobulated White Sox, ferociously criticized his team after Sunday’s loss, saying that “Most of the guys were f***ing flat today.”

A handful of White Sox players pushed back against that narrative in postgame comments to the media.

It’s all very uncomfortable and further highlights a lack of feel and perspective from Grifol, whose steadfast commitment to competing with this undermanned roster is feeling more and more detached from reality.

Chicago is really bad; it’s just a question of how messy this gets. The players, to their credit, seem united and reasonable, but if Grifol keeps flipping tables, it’s probably time to grab some popcorn.