Chris Sale followed Reynaldo Lopez’s lead from a day earlier, helping the Braves shut out the Cubs 7-0 at Truist Park on Tuesday. They’ll go for the sweep against the Cubs – who own the National League’s fifth-best record – on Wednesday.

Here are five observations from Tuesday:

1. Sale looks like one of the best acquisitions of the winter, healthy and recapturing his prime form. Sale once again dazzled with pinpoint accuracy and whiffs throughout the evening, tossing seven scoreless frames with nine strikeouts and no walks. He induced 15 swing-and-misses after producing 21 and 20, respectively, in his last two starts, continuing that encouraging trend. The Cubs had only two hits against him and never had a runner reach third base.

In his past four outings, Sale has allowed two earned runs over 25 innings. He’s struck out 34 while walking just two. The Braves are 4-0 in those starts and 6-2 overall with Sale pitching.

“I’m obviously happy with where we’ve been and where we are, but we have a long way to go,” Sale said. “I’m appreciative of where we are, but it’s nothing to hang your hat on quite yet.”

The overall numbers remind one of Sale’s best days, which were trimmed short by a four-year stretch of injuries that limited him to 151 innings for the Red Sox from 2020-23. Sale has a 2.54 ERA over 49-2/3 innings this season. He owns a 61:8 strikeout-to-walk ratio, a stat that looks even more impressive when considering five of those walks came in Sale’s first three outings.

“When we got (Sale), you start getting excited about getting a guy of that caliber,” manager Brian Snitker said. And Sale has consistently shown why.

2. The Braves lost Spencer Strider for the season, but if Sale stays healthy, it appears they’ll have another ace alongside Max Fried anyway. Sale carried risk – and still does given his injury history and age (35) – but his addition is looking brilliant for the franchise.

And then there’s Lopez, the converted reliever who has a 1.34 ERA in seven starts. Certainly, he has a strong case as the team’s best pitcher thus far. Even projecting some regression, the Lopez signing was another shrewd move for president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos.

“Alex continues to amaze me with the moves that he makes,” first baseman Matt Olson said. “He thinks it out. To be able to go get Lopez, he was in the bullpen last year, and to have the faith in him to be a starter, then go out and get Sale off a couple years where he had injuries. Obviously the arms are great, but Lopez not really drawn out innings, and Sale neither. Then they’ve both been awesome. We have full faith in Alex.”

There are a lot of innings to go, but the idea of a postseason rotation featuring Fried, Sale, Lopez and Charlie Morton sounds nice right now; a group capable of matching the Dodgers and Phillies, who possess their own excellent rotations. But again, quite a long way to go.

Leslie Tessler gets emotional as she sees Braves shortstop Orlando Arcia signing an autograph to her son Lucas Torino (8) before the game against the Chicago Cubs at Truist Park on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. 

(Miguel Martinez/ AJC)

Credit: Miguel Martinez

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Credit: Miguel Martinez

3. Thanks to Sale, Lopez and the bullpen, the Braves have shut out the Cubs in consecutive nights. They’ve won six of seven games since getting swept in Los Angeles, with pitching leading the way. Braves pitchers have allowed nine runs combined over those seven contests.

“It’s a lot of fun (being in this rotation),” Sale said. “When everyone is clicking on all cylinders, everyone is happy, right? Our offense is obviously unreal. So when we can go out there and do our job, keep runs off the board and keep winning these games – it’s kind of a back and forth. When the pitchers are doing well, it takes pressure off the offense. When the offense is clicking, it takes pressure off of us. And it just comes to a head and that’s when you start playing great baseball.”

4. The Braves’ slumbering offense sure looked alive in a sixth-run fourth. It was highlighted by first baseman Olson’s three-run blast off Jameson Taillon, who left in a seven-run deficit after four frames. Outfielder Michael Harris II, who’s showed signs of improvement recently, also homered, his first since April 19.

It was an overdue outburst. “These guys are all going to get it going at some point in time,” Snitker said. The Braves hadn’t scored seven runs in a game since April 19 (8). In fact, their six-run inning alone equaled or surpassed their output in each of the past four games.

“I really don’t think we’ve fully clicked yet,” Olson said. “We had a big inning today, but as a whole, we haven’t popped off too much. (Designated hitter Marcell) Ozuna has been carrying the load for a while now. A couple guys have been swinging well, but we’ve also had some dudes who haven’t been (performing to) their potential. We’ve had (catcher Sean Murphy) out. I just feel like we have more potential.”

5. Olson also had a double and just missed another homer at the right-field wall. He has two home runs in his past five games – in a span of 16 at-bats – after going 26 games without one (92 at-bats). Olson has been among the lead leaders in hard-hit rate, so it seemed inevitable he’d start seeing results. He had five hits in an eight at-bat span following his home run.

“You want to have days like this,” Olson said. “What happened last year (when he put up historic numbers) happened last year. Over the course of the season, there’s going to be stuff like (droughts) that go on. Obviously you don’t want them to be very long, but any time you get those results it’s going to be a good feeling.”

Stat to know

7- Sale has covered seven innings in four of his eight starts, quite the achievement given how little he’s pitched in recent years.


“It’s like playing college summer baseball, just with brighter lights.” - Sale on how much he’s enjoying his new team

Up next

The Braves will try to complete the sweep Wednesday when Charlie Morton (3-0, 3.14) faces Javier Assad (3-0, 1.70). The Braves also swept the Cubs here during the final homestand of last season, which ultimately cost Chicago a wild-card spot.