PHOENIX – You can feel the Braves gaining momentum.

They won an emotional thriller on Monday. They followed it with a crisp, complete game on Tuesday, when they beat the Diamondbacks, 6-2, at Chase Field.

The Braves did not suffer a letdown after their extra-innings win. They continued doing what they have over the last several days. They are playing good baseball.

They have won four in a row.

Five observations:

1. In the first inning, Chris Sale hurled 29 pitches. The D-backs loaded the bases. This inning was an example – albeit an extreme one – of how Sale had to fight through his start. He did not have his best.

Here’s what makes the great ones, like Sale, special: They relish nights like this. They embrace the challenge.

“I think he likes competing and battling,” catcher Sean Murphy said. “They battled him today, and he embraced that. That gets him excited.”

With the bases juiced in the first, Sale induced an inning-ending groundout to escape unscathed. He didn’t allow a run until a sixth-inning triple that ended his night.

When Sale’s outing began, it seemed he didn’t have his best stuff. He found it, though. In the middle of his start, he retired eight in a row. Sale called the start “sporadic at times.”

“I think a lot of credit should go to (Murphy) there,” Sale said. “He really kind of figured out at times, ‘OK, this is not (working)’ – and it was spotty. Sometimes the fastball was there, sometimes it wasn’t. Sometimes the changeup was good. I was very kind of in and out with a lot of my stuff. Without him, I’m probably not getting through that.”

His run of retiring eight straight ended with a one-out single and triple in the sixth inning – the latter of which scored a run. At that point, Braves manager Brian Snitker walked out to the mound and lifted Sale at 100 pitches.

Sale, an All-Star for the eighth time in his career, had done his job. He was charged with only two runs. He struck out nine hitters.

“He just kept grinding, man,” Snitker said. “He grinds and he competes. … He just keeps fighting. I’m glad we scored those runs, so we could get the win.”

Snitker’s decision to pull Sale at this point ran somewhat counter to what Arizona manager Torey Luvollo did in the top half of the sixth.

Lovullo’s decision – or lack thereof – might’ve changed the game. The Braves took advantage of it.

Let’s get into that.

2. For most of the night, Arizona ace Zac Gallen struggled to find a rhythm. He looked a bit off. He got into a lot of deep counts. And on top of that, the Braves put together some great at-bats.

In the top of the sixth inning, Matt Olson hit a one-out double and Marcell Ozuna followed with a single. Gallen, who had grinded through this start, was in trouble. The Braves were seeing him for the third time.

Lovullo decided to roll with his ace.

Adam Duvall cranked a three-run shot to left field. The blast, which traveled an estimated 441 feet, almost reached the second deck, which is far beyond the left-field wall here. It was pulverized.

“(Gallen) was grinding through it, too,” Sale said. “He’s a hell of a pitcher. He’s where he’s at for a reason. To be able to get that off a guy like that, in the situation of the game, just where we were, just kind of grinding, just kind of screeching through that game, that was big-time. (Duvall) puts in a lot of work, and to get a game like tonight, that’s very satisfying – not only for him, but for us.”

A two-run lead turned into a five-run lead. With one swing, Duvall put the Braves in a much more comfortable position, especially given that they had multiple relievers down after Monday’s 11-inning victory.

In the at-bat, Duvall saw three pitches at the bottom of the zone: A knuckle curve, a slider and another knuckle curve. With runners on the corners, Gallen was likely trying to induce an inning-ending double play.

Instead, Duvall crushed the knuckle curve.

Atlanta Braves' Adam Duval, right, celebrates with Matt Olson, Marcell Ozuna (20), and Eddie Rosario (8) after hitting a three-run home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the sixth inning during a baseball game Tuesday, July 9, 2024, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

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3. The Braves pushing back Sale actually provided baseball fans with a mouthwatering matchup: Sale versus Arizona ace Gallen. A duel in the desert.

Good luck to the offenses.

Well, actually, one of them had success. This was a complete game from Atlanta.

Sale quieted the D-backs. Meanwhile, his lineup scored two in the second and three in the sixth off Gallen.

Gallen gave up five runs – only four earned because of a second-inning error that allowed a run to score. Those five runs matched a season high. The righty had surrendered that many runs only once in 13 starts before this.

On Saturday, the Braves hung five runs on the Phillies’ Ranger Suárez, who is having a terrific season. They have scored at least five runs in five straight games.

“I’d like to see it continue on the rest of the week,” Snitker said.

4. This game seemed over when Duvall’s ball soared over the fence.

The reason why: This bullpen has been incredible.

The Braves are now 39-3 when they lead after six innings. They are 40-2 when leading after seven and 44-2 when they’re ahead after eight.

“I mean, it makes our lives easy, right?” Murphy said of his bullpen’s versatility. “You give teams a lot of different looks and I guess be unpredictable that way. The guys at the back end are the best in the business.”

Sale left Jesse Chavez with a runner at third and two outs to go in the sixth. That run scored, but Chavez didn’t give up an earned run over 2 2/3 innings.

A.J. Minter pitched a scoreless ninth – and on just three pitches!

“They’ve been nails,” Sale said of the bullpen. “You just look at tonight: Chavy coming in. Very efficient, very quick, through the heart of their order – on a night when the back end of our bullpen was more than likely down. That’s huge. And that’s who he’s been this year and throughout his career. That’s why guys respect him a lot.

“And then Mint, it’s almost disrespectful to go out there (and have a) three-pitch ninth inning. It made me a little jealous having a 30-pitch inning. It’s fantastic. You know when you leave the mound, the game is more than likely going to stay right where it’s at, with these guys we have out there. That helps a lot, especially for a winning team.”

Atlanta Braves pitcher Jesse Chavez throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the sixth inning during a baseball game Tuesday, July 9, 2024, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

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Credit: AP

5. Sale is scheduled to start on Sunday in San Diego, which would leave him unavailable to pitch in the All-Star Game two days later.

To Sale, this isn’t a big deal. He wants to win a World Series.

“I know the most important thing is this team and winning games for this team,” Sale said. “We got our eyes on the prize and that’s the most important thing.”

The Braves will go for five in a row on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Sale continued looking like his old self from years ago.

“I can’t imagine it was much better (then),” Murphy said. “He’s pitching so well and he’s competing and he’s going out there and giving us innings every time he goes. Shoot, I’m glad he’s on my team.”

Stat to know

2.74 - Sale is the first pitcher since Shelby Miller in 2015 to notch an ERA of 2.74 or better over his first 17 starts with the Braves (within a single season). Before those two? Greg Maddux in 1993. (Reynaldo López, who has a 1.71 ERA, has only made 16 starts. When he makes his 17th later this week, he’ll join this group.)


“I think it’s the mentality. The fight. There’s a lot of passion in that guy. You know you’re getting his 100 percent every time he runs out there and pitches. It’s been fun to watch.” - Duvall on what Sale adds to a clubhouse

Up next

Charlie Morton will start for Atlanta on Wednesday. First pitch is at 9:40 p.m.