Chris Sale's scoreless streak reaches 20 innings as Braves defeat Padres

Gabriel Burns, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Baseball

The Braves salvaged the finale of a four-game series against the Padres, taking game 2 of Monday’s doubleheader 3-0 behind another masterful Chris Sale performance.

Here are five observations from Monday:

1. Sale has been the Braves’ ace, and he embraced the “stopper” role. The team was reeling from four consecutive losses, including a defeat earlier in the day, and Sale took matters into his hands. He pitched seven scoreless innings, striking out nine without a walk.

“You want to win them all, and I don’t think you put more on one than the other, but I think when the guys are grinding, took a tough one (earlier) today, that happens, but you put a little bit more emphasis on, ‘We need this one,’” Sale said. “You try to stop the bleeding as short as you can.”

The Padres whiffed on 18 of their 53 swings. Sale piled up nine strikeouts, his fourth consecutive start with at least that amount. He’s completed seven innings in five of nine outings. Glance at his Baseball Savant page, and one will see nearly all his percentiles are in the red. And the Braves keep winning with him on the mound, even as their offense tries to find itself.

“He expects to be that guy (a stopper),” manager Brian Snitker said.

2. Sale is riding a 20-inning scoreless streak. He’s allowed 13 hits with a 28:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio over that time. In May (four starts), Sale has surrendered one run over 25 innings, striking out 37 and walking one. Sale stressed he isn’t completely satisfied, and he’s aware how swiftly circumstances can change, but he’s encouraged with how his season has started.

“I know about as well as anyone how quick that coin can flip,” Sale said. “I appreciate where I am. I love what I’m doing and we’re having fun. But there’s a long way to go and nothing to hang your hat on yet.”

Snitker: “He’s been just nails. The rhythm, the whole thing. He’s in a groove.”

3. Designated hitter Marcell Ozuna homered in game 1, then doubled and homered in game 2 to extend his hitting streak to 13 games. It’s already his second streak of 10-or-more contests this season after a 17-game run to start the year. No other player has achieved that yet.

Ozuna remains the Braves’ best and most consistent hitter as June approaches. A year ago at this time, he was hitting .200 with .732 OPS (31 games). This year, he’s hitting .327 with a 1.047 OPS.

A too-early-to-mention thought that’s going to be said here anyway: The team holds a $16 million option on Ozuna following the season. If he continues anywhere close to this type of production, that’ll make for perhaps the easiest decision of the team’s winter.


4. Catcher Travis d’Arnaud, who took a foul ball off his mask and exited Friday with dizziness, returned to the lineup Monday evening. He’s doing well.

“I’m glad they were cautious with that foul tip,” said d’Arnaud, who’s suffered multiple concussions in his career. “I felt a little dizzy after that. For me to wake up the next day feeling normal was important. I was grateful and thankful I felt normal.”

Not a bad way to come back: d’Arnaud had three hits and caught a shutout. “He’s the epicenter of our team, in terms of leadership and who he is in the clubhouse,” Sale said of d’Arnaud.

5. The Braves optioned starter Bryce Elder to Triple-A Gwinnett and recalled righty Darius Vines before the second game started. Vines gives the team an option to provide length out of the bullpen and could also start as soon as Thursday in Chicago.

Stat to know

2.22 (Sale has a 2.22 ERA through nine starts. His Braves tenure couldn’t have started much better.)


“You know (Sale) is starting an hour and 45 minutes before the game when his music (early 2000s hip hop) comes on in the weight room. It gets me fired up because we’re the same age, so it’s all the songs that I know.” – d’Arnaud on Sale

Up next

The Braves embark on a six-game road trip to Chicago and Pittsburgh. They’ll open the three-game series Monday at Wrigley Field with Charlie Morton (3-1, 3.52) facing Cubs righty Javier Assad (4-0, 1.49).


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