MIAMI – This was one of those starts that is difficult to evaluate.

On one hand, Chris Sale looked terrific at times. On the other, his pitching line did not reflect that.

The Braves lost, 5-1, to the Marlins on Saturday at loanDepot Park.

Five observations:

1. After home plate umpire Brian O’Nora called ball four on a changeup that appeared to catch the top of the zone, Sale stuck his arms out in disbelief. He then barked at O’Nora.

This two-out walk to Jake Burger loaded the bases in the fifth inning.

Bryan De La Cruz lined Sale’s next pitch to left field for a bases-clearing double.

It would’ve been 2-0, Marlins, if Sale had escaped the inning. Instead, the Braves trailed by five runs.

“Listen, I just gotta make pitches,” Sale said when asked about the calls in the Burger at-bat. “I’m not here to judge people on what they’re doing or how they do it. I have a job to do and I didn’t do it.”

In addition to the fourth ball in the Burger at-bat, one other ball, a 98 mph fastball down, seemed to catch the bottom of the zone. If only looking at MLB’s pitch tracking feature, both pitches could’ve been called strikes.

Baseball, though, won’t always be perfect.

Sale insisted his pitch to De La Cruz – a changeup he left up – wasn’t affected by any lingering frustration about the previous at-bat.

“No. I gotta get that (changeup) down,” he said. “Again, for whatever reason, it just kind of left me that inning. That was really the only inning that kind of got away. Even the following two innings when I was still kind of steaming, I felt like my command was there and everything was good. For whatever reason, that moment in time, that one inning, just kind of fell apart, and I wasn’t able to limit the damage.”

Umpires are human. They make mistakes. One or two calls don’t determine the outcome.

The Braves won’t use that as an excuse.

“That’s part of it,” manager Brian Snitker said. “... You could probably say that about a lot of pitches over the course of the game. Not gonna use that. He just couldn’t polish off the fifth.”

2. Sale is, well, brutally honest.

This is what he said when asked how important it was for him to complete seven innings even after that tough fifth frame:

In that fifth inning, Sale gave up an infield hit and walked two batter’s before De La Cruz drove in three runs. Sale actually looked crisp throughout most of his outing – just not in that fifth inning.

“When you’re horse—-, at least I can save the bullpen a little bit,” he said. “There were some good stretches, but as a whole, still just gotta get better.”

His accountability is respectable. He won’t make excuses.

He tells it like it is.

On Saturday, he had a weird outing. Yes, he allowed five runs – which his offense couldn’t match – but he went seven innings. He’d retired seven in a row before that fifth. And after De La Cruz’s double, he set down seven straight to end his day.

But five runs is five runs. The Braves lost.

How does he view it?

“It’s baseball. If it was easy, everyone would do it,” Sale said. “You gotta take the good with the bad. Just learn from, obviously, the mistakes that I made, but also don’t shy away from some of the good things that I did as well. As a whole, we lost, I didn’t do well. That’s kind of the bottom line. But you can nitpick a few things in there that was like, ‘Hey, that was good.’ And you can also go in there and nitpick and say, ‘Hey, that needs to be better.’ That’s kind of where I’m at.”

3. On the Bally Sports broadcast on the press box televisions, the camera angle from behind home plate provided a look at how difficult Saturday must’ve been for hitters. The roof was open again, but because the game began at 4:10 p.m., it started with bright sunlight in the outfield and darkness in the batter’s box.

It seemed difficult for hitters.

“I mean, yeah, the batter’s eye was bright, and it was dark (in the batter’s box),” Matt Olson said. “Not ideal, but both sides are dealing with it. It is what it is.”

4. We shouldn’t discredit the Marlins’ 25-year-old righty Max Meyer, who held Atlanta to a run over six innings. He threw 91 pitches, and 49 were sliders – a slider that topped out at 90 mph.

“Some had a ton of depth and some kind of spun and looked a little more cutter-ish,” Olson said. “I guess you don’t know which one you’re gonna get sometimes. But no, he pitched well. He was mixing it up.”

The Braves went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position.

5. With Sale at 84 pitches, the Braves didn’t plan on Sale pitching the seventh. He asked for it.

“I don’t blame him,” Snitker said. “I’d want to go back out there, too. He was throwing the ball really well, and it was good. He still had plenty of pitches, and that’s good.”

Other than the three-run fifth, Sale allowed one run on a homer in the first inning, and another in the second inning when Jarred Kelenic couldn’t grab a tough liner that came from the shadows to the sun.

Three starts into this season, Sale has already had a seven-inning outing. He went seven innings only twice in 20 starts last season. Before that, he hadn’t gone that deep since 2019.

Across the three starts to open this year, Sale has tossed 17 2/3 innings. He reached this inning total in a three-start span last season, but before that, he hadn’t thrown 17 2/3 frames over three starts since 2019.

Stat to know

102 - In his third start of this season, Sale slung 102 pitches. He eclipsed the 100-pitch mark three times last year, but didn’t do it for the first time until his eighth start.


“God, he got on such a roll there. It was really good. And he went seven innings. I still felt good down four, with our offense and everything. I still feel like we’ve got a chance. But overall, I thought it was really good, other than just the kind of the fifth.” - Snitker on Sale and the loss

Up next

Charlie Morton will lead the Braves into Sunday’s series-deciding game, which begins at 1:40 p.m. The Braves will face Miami lefty Jesús Luzardo.