NEW YORK – Two pitches into the game, the Braves led by two runs as Ozzie Albies launched a no-doubter that easily cleared the left-field wall. The home run foreshadowed the hours that followed.

In front of a packed Yankee Stadium on Friday, the Braves landed a haymaker in an 8-1 series-opening win over New York. Given the recent slump, this might have been Atlanta’s most encouraging offensive performance to date. And led by Chris Sale, the pitching staff allowed only three hits.

Since the start of their last homestand, the Braves have continued signaling this much: They might be heating up. Watch out.

Five observations:

1. As the Braves blasted baseballs deep into the New York night, all seemed normal again. After struggles that persisted for almost a month and a half, the Braves appeared to be their old selves.

This is who they are. This is who they were supposed to be.

It is faulty thinking to compare this group to last year, but this performance was among the most 2023-esque games of the season. The Braves scored early and continued punishing their opponent. They didn’t relent.

“It’s fun when we’re playing this type of baseball,” said Jarred Kelenic, who singled on the game’s first pitch. “The Yankees are a hell of a ballclub, and so are we. So I feel like it was kind of a playoff atmosphere, two teams going toe to toe. I enjoy playing in games like this, I know the guys in here love playing in games like that and it was just fun to be out there competing against them.”

The Braves on Friday mashed at least three homers in a game for the 10th time this season. The encouraging part: They accomplished it for the fourth time in their last six games. (Before that, Atlanta hit three or more homers in only six of its first 67 games.)

Their victim: Carlos Rodón, who surrendered eight runs – seven earned – on 11 hits over 3 2/3 innings before leaving to hearty boos.

Three batters after Albies homered, Austin Riley blasted a solo shot. In the fourth inning, Matt Olson sent one over the right-center field wall.

“I just think that we’re getting good pitches to hit and we’re not missing them,” Kelenic said. “I feel like we’re doing a good job of being ready for those mistakes and not missing them.”

2. Are we watching vintage Sale? He certainly hasn’t done anything to suggest otherwise.

Sale on Friday held the Yankees to one run on one hit over five innings. He struck out eight batters.

Sale went at least five innings while allowing one hit for the first time since Aug. 12, 2018, when he threw five one-hit innings against the Orioles while pitching for Boston. Before Friday, Sale had eight career starts of at least five frames and one or no hits.

The lefty is healthy. He had a normal offseason for the first time in years.

Asked how mentally liberating it has been to pitch without worrying about injuries, Sale – careful not to jinx anything – began by saying, “Easy now.”

Then he continued.

“Listen, that can creep up any time,” he said. “You’re never really out of the woods. I’ve been through too much to sit here and say anything like that right now. I know how this game can be. I like to be able to sit back and appreciate what I have right now and where I’m at, who I’m doing it with. You just really gotta stay focused on each and every day and not try to get too far ahead of yourself in this game.”

Sale probably should’ve notched a hitless outing, too. The only hit came on a misplay by Adam Duvall, and because it wasn’t ruled an error, the eventual run was charged to Sale.

And consider this: Before Friday, Sale had lost each of his last five starts versus the Yankees, dating to July of 2022, and had posted a 10.45 ERA in those games.

That Sale and this Sale are different pitchers.

“Got it done,” he said of his start. “It worked out tonight. I’ve faced these guys quite a bit, and I’ve seen what they can do. I’ve got too much respect for the game and too much respect for those guys to say anything other than just, hey, we battled and it just went my way tonight. I’ve been on the other side of it, too.”

3. Less than a week and a half ago, the Braves were struck in a frustrating time. But they stressed this: They weren’t panicking. They wanted to stay the course.

All of the sudden, they’ve won four in a row and seven of their last eight.

“I think that’s the ebbs and flows of the season,” Riley said. “What we believed in this clubhouse of where we could get to, offensively, I think you’re seeing that right now with (how) we’re swinging the bat well. Just look to keep it going and just continue to work.”

In their latest win, the Braves homered twice in the first inning – something made more impressive when you realize they’ve played 51 games with fewer than two homers. Sale had a three-run lead before he took the mound.

The Braves were patient. Now their work is paying off.

“When you talk about consistency, this is a game (where) you can do all the right things and still not get the result you’re looking for,” Sale said. “The process has a lot to do (with it), from inside of these walls. You just appreciate it. I had a lead before I even threw my first pitch tonight. I don’t know if there’s a starting pitcher in the league that would say they don’t like that. It’s just nice to see all that work that they put in coming out.”

4. Coming into the series, the Yankees’ Aaron Judge led all of baseball with 27 home runs – five more than anyone else. His teammates, Juan Soto and Giancarlo Stanton, were part of a four-way tie for eighth with 18 homers each.

To put this into perspective: The trio’s 63 homers were more than three teams had hit all year.

The Yankees go as they go. They’re all stars, and two are superstars.

And against them, Sale did his finest work.

Judge, Soto and Stanton went 0-for-6 with five strikeouts versus Sale. Judge and Soto were 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. Stanton managed a groundout.

“That’s a rough top of that order, man,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “They’re dangerous as can be. He did a great job. He’s been throwing the ball really well – all year.”

Sale terrorized Soto and Judge. In the first inning, he struck out Soto on a 98 mph four-seam fastball – the hardest pitch he’s thrown all season. And in the fourth, he got Soto looking on a slider low and away. (Soto complained, but it was a strike.) Judge chased a backfoot slider in his first at-bat and a changeup low and away in his second at-bat.

His offense backed him.

5. A great sign for the Braves: They won easily and the guy who has carried them all season, Marcell Ozuna, went 0-for-4 with one walk and two strikeouts. The Braves needed others to heat up, and that’s happening.

“Oh, it’s been huge,” Riley said. “It’s what this lineup does when we’re going well. … Like I said, I feel like that’s who we are.”

In his last seven games, including Friday, Riley is 12-for-22 with four doubles, four home runs and nine RBIs.

Albies has four doubles, two homers and seven RBIs in his last eight games.

In seven games batting leadoff, Kelenic is 12-for-32 with two homers and four RBIs. He singled home a run in the second inning.

After a four-hit game on Wednesday, Sean Murphy had two more hits.

Ramón Laureano, called up recently, went 3-for-5 with three doubles.

Olson had two more hits, including the home run, and drove in two runs as his OPS is nearing .800.

The Braves might be entering their hot streak.

“No, it’s good,” Snitker said. “It’s kind of more, I think, who we are. So it’s good to see that the guys hung in there, and hopefully this is a trend that’s going to turn around for us.”

Stat to know

4 - Atlanta has four four-game winning streaks. Before this, the last one came May 7-11.


“Usually when you’re pitching and you’re hitting, you’re going to win a lot of games. The game’s tough, we just gotta keep going and keep sticking to our guns and sticking to our plans, and let the rest take care of itself.” -Kelenic

Up next

On Saturday, the Braves will look to run their winning streak to five games against right-hander Marcus Stroman and the Yankees. Charlie Morton will start for Atlanta. The game, which begins at 7:15 p.m., will be televised on FOX.