Braves miss chance to sweep Phillies, but leave Philadelphia with series win

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Chris Sale throws to a Philadelphia Phillies batter during the first inning of a baseball game Sunday, March 31, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Chris Sale throws to a Philadelphia Phillies batter during the first inning of a baseball game Sunday, March 31, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

PHILADELPHIA – Finally, the Braves and Phillies played a competitive game start to finish this weekend. A seventh-inning rally sunk the Braves in a 5-4 defeat, preventing them from sweeping the opening series of the year.

Here are five observations from Sunday:

1. The Braves held a 3-2 lead entering the bottom of the seventh, but the Phillies followed with their best inning of the series. Joe Jimenez issued a lead-off walk and manager Brian Snitker turned to newcomer Aaron Bummer. He struck out Brandon Marsh.

Bummer appeared to get out of the inning when he coaxed a double play from Johan Rojas, but the Phillies challenged the call and Rojas was ruled safe at first. Kyle Schwarber singled and scored the tying run on Trea Turner’s ensuing hit. Alec Bohm’s single scored two more and that was the game.

“It’s the way this game is,” Snitker said about Bummer. “His sinker is nasty. Sometimes it goes at them, sometimes it doesn’t. But I thought he threw the ball OK. Just the way it goes.”

2. Chris Sale surrendered a run two pitches into his Braves debut. Kyle Schwarber homered off a middle-placed fastball. But Sale settled in afterwards and did a nice job navigating troublesome spots.

After the first two Phillies reached in the second, he induced a flyout and struck out the next two hitters to end the frame. He delivered a filthy slider to strike out former Brave Cristian Pache for one of those outs.

“It’s a dogfight, that’s what we sign up for,” Sale said. “It’s never going to be pretty. If you think you’re going to go out there and cruise through and be perfect all the time, it’s going to be a tough road. (Catcher Chadwick Tromp) was staying on task. He was unbelievable back there today getting me through those innings.

“The fifth inning just got away from me, I was all over the place. (Pitching coach Rick Kranitz) comes out and calms things down. Tromp was staying on point. Didn’t flinch. Really got me through that inning with minimal damage. That was fun to see.”

Sale went 5-1/3 innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits. He struck out seven and walked two. When Snitker removed him from the game, he was amped, telling his teammates (some variety of), “Let’s go win this game.”

“Just that I appreciate where I’m at and who I’m doing it with,” Sale said. “Let’s keep this thing rolling.”

Third baseman Austin Riley on Sale: “I loved what I saw. Super, super competitive. Wanted the ball, was in every pitch. You love to play behind a guy like that. (He told us), ‘This is awesome, let’s finish it up.’ Just trying to pump us up. It was great.”

3. It would’ve been understandable had the Braves taken a conservative approach with Sale, perhaps starting him out in smaller-inning increments. He’s thrown only 151 innings over four seasons due to injuries.

Instead, he threw 83 pitches and went into the sixth in his first start. Sale only had six outings of such length last year and none in two starts the previous campaign.

“I thought it was good, really good,” Snitker said. “After (Max Fried’s short start) last night, we needed somebody, and he took us into the sixth. I told him, ‘You stepped up big time for me.’ How he got out of that fifth inning with that jam he got into was awesome. I thought he did really, really well.”

4. Second baseman Ozzie Albies launched a first-inning homer for the second consecutive day. The platoon of Adam Duvall and Jarred Kelenic also proved fruitful again. Duvall, starting against lefty Ranger Suarez, had an RBI single in the fourth. Kelenic entered in the eighth and hit a 107-mph double off Seranthony Dominguez and later scored on Albies’ single.

“That’s a rough at-bat off that guy,” Snitker said of Kelenic facing Dominguez. “Had some really good swings, fouled off some tough pitches. When I hit him, I was thinking, ‘It’s a two-run game, if he can get on, we can tie this thing with Ronald (Acuña) coming up behind him, so that was a great at-bat. And I’m sure he hasn’t pinch-hit a lot either.”

5. The Braves won the series, making them 7-2 in their last nine regular-season games at Citizens Bank Park. Their series victory here will be downplayed by the realities of the past two Octobers – they’re 0-4 here – but there’s nothing the Braves can do about that right now. Instead, they’ll enjoy starting the season on a winning note in a place that many consider to be the sport’s best homefield advantage.

“You’re talking about two of the best teams in the league,” Sale said. “Two incredible fan bases. The atmosphere was incredible here this weekend. I’m assuming there’s going to be some more of that throughout the year. We look forward to that. That’s what we want.”

Stat to know

6 (Albies has six RBIs through three games, the most for a Braves player over the first three games since Travis d’Arnaud and Dansby Swanson did the same in 2020.)

Quotable

“No confetti gets thrown in March. Still a long road, still a ways to go. Just have to stay on top of the things I need to stay on top of.” – Sale

Up next

The Braves travel to Chicago to face the White Sox on Monday afternoon. Charlie Morton will make his season debut against veteran Chris Flexen.