Sale, Ozuna lead Braves past Guardians 6-2 in matchup of MLB's two best teams (2024)

By PAUL NEWBERRY

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ATLANTA (AP) — Chris Sale shook off another first-inning homer and Marcell Ozuna kept up his torrid start with two more RBIs, leading the Atlanta Braves past the Cleveland Guardians 6-2 Friday night in the opener of a series matching MLB’s two best teams.

The reigning NL East champion Braves won for the 10th time in 11 games to improve to 18-6, pushing them a game ahead of the AL-leading Guardians (18-8).

Sale (3-1) surrendered a homer to the very first hitter, Steven Kwan, whose 389-foot shot down the right-field line bounced around in the Chop House restaurant. Braves right fielder Ronald Acuña Jr. barely moved as Kwan circled the bases with the third leadoff homer of his career.

Sale has give up four homers this season — all in the first inning. It was the second straight start that the leadoff hitter went deep against him.

Otherwise, the 35-year-old left-hander has been stellar, further distancing himself from all the injuries that plagued him the past four seasons with the Boston Red Sox. It was the first time since June 19-30, 2018, that he’s gone at least seven innings in three straight starts.

“I really put a lot of emphasis on strengthening my shoulder and getting stronger and just being healthy,” said Sale, who was acquired by the Braves for prospect Vaughn Grissom in an offseason trade. “I just wanted to give one more good go at it.”

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After Kwan’s homer, the Guardians managed only one more hit against Sale before the Braves turned it over to their bullpen. He walked one, struck out six and threw 67 of 95 pitches for strikes.

Ozuna erased Cleveland’s tenuous lead in the fourth with a double to left off Logan Allen (3-1) that brought home Austin Riley and Matt Olson. Both runners reached without benefit of a hit — Riley walked and Olson was hit by a pitch.

Ozuna now has a majors-leading 31 RBIs on the season, the most ever by a Braves player before the month of May. He had been tied with Dale Murphy (29 in 1985) and Hall of Famer Chipper Jones (29 in 1998).

“An absolute monster month,” Sale said.

Michael Harris II followed with a blooper to center that drove in Ozuna. The Big Bear initially paused, thinking the ball might be caught, before lumbering home with a flopping, headfirst slide.

Olson tacked on a run-scoring single in the fifth as the Braves knocked out Allen, who was charged with four runs in 4 2/3 innings. Orlando Arcia homered in the eighth off Pedro Avila.

STANDOUT STARTERS

Sale kept up a stretch of strong starts by Braves pitchers, who have given up just 12 earned runs in 56 1/3 innings over the last nine games — an ERA of 1.92.

Not surprisingly, Atlanta has won all of those games except one.

“If the starters are doing the bulk of your pitching, you’re probably doing all right,” manager Brian Snitker said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Guardians: RHP James Karinchak (shoulder) joined the team for the road trip, giving him a chance to work with the big league training staff as he prepares for a rehab assignment. ... RHP Gavin Williams (elbow) will be shut down at least through the middle of next week after getting an injection that the team hopes will alleviate his issues. ... LHP Sam Hentges (middle finger inflammation) is nearing a return after throwing a pair of scoreless innings during his minor league rehab assignment.

Braves: 2B Ozzie Albies came off the 10-day injured list right on schedule after sustaining a fractured toe when hit by a pitch on April 15. He wasted no time making an impact with two hits, an RBI and a run scored.

UP NEXT

RHP Charlie Morton (2-0, 4.70) gets the nod for Atlanta in the second game of the series Saturday night. He’ll be opposed by Guardians RHP Tanner Bibee (2-0, 4.44).

___

AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb

Sale, Ozuna lead Braves past Guardians 6-2 in matchup of MLB's two best teams (2024)
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