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Here come the champs: Red Sox welcome the Braves

A week after the trade deadline, Atlanta's arrival at Fenway could give Boston a sense of where they fit as the stretch run approaches.

Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna hits a 2-run homer to take a 7-6 lead over the San Francisco Giants during the fourth inning of a baseball game on Tuesday, June 21, 2022, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP) The Associated Press

As the Red Sox have shrugged off a slow start and played their way back into the conversation of American League contenders, they’ve effectively affirmed their status as playoff-worthy. And so, in their first home series of August, they’ll have a chance to make another statement — this one being that they don’t just belong in baseball’s expanded postseason, but they deserve to be acknowledged among the legitimate elite as October begins its approach.

They’ll get that opportunity with the arrival of the Braves, the reigning World Series champions and a team still stacked with the talent necessary to make another run at a ring.

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Ronald Acuna Jr. is the biggest attraction for Atlanta, even after a torn ACL cost him the chance to compete in last year’s playoffs, though he’s just one big bat in a lineup that entered July with the most home runs in the National League. Matt Olson has been an effective replacement for free-agent loss Freddie Freeman at first base, while Dansby Swanson and Austin Riley comprise one of the game’s better duos on the left side of the infield, and Atlanta doesn’t lack high-end pitching, either. Through the first three full months of the season, left-handed ace Max Fried was rated by Baseball Reference as the second-most valuable pitcher in the majors.

Buoyed by a brilliant, 20-6 month of June, the Red Sox have spent the early part of summer showing the caliber of their talent, too. If seeing that squad in a two-game set against the Braves isn’t alluring enough, however, it may also be worth noting that the first 7,500 fans into Fenway for the August 9 contest will receive a Nathan Eovaldi light up gnome. On top of that, the set against Atlanta begins an interesting six-game homestand that’s set to be capped with a three-game weekend visit from the Yankees.

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