BOSTON – If anyone was going to take a no-hitter to the sixth inning Sunday at Fenway Park, it figured to be Red Sox ace Chris Sale.
But Mike Foltynewicz and the Braves had other ideas.
Sale gave up six runs and left the game before Foltynewicz had allowed even a hit and the Braves rolled to a 7-1 win to avert a sweep and snap a three-game losing streak.
“A very big day, especially when you’ve got one of the best pitchers in baseball going out there,” Foltynewicz said of his Red Sox counterpart. “So I knew once they got the three (early) runs that I had to take the opportunity in my own hands and try to not let them score at all.”’
Tyler Flowers hit a three-run homer off his former White Sox batterymate Sale in the second inning and Foltynewicz (4-3) made the lead stand, limiting the surging Red Sox to just three hits and one run in seven innings with three walks and seven strikeouts.
“Folty” took a no-hitter to the sixth before Andrew Benintendi’s one-out double off the Green Monster left-field wall.
“Today wasn’t his best command day, but he had decent command of off-speed,” Flowers said of Foltynewicz. “Obviously he kept high velocity throughout, so being able to throw off-speed for strikes buys you a little more margin for error, especially when you’re throwing that hard. ... Pretty electric stuff throughout the whole day.”
It might have been a costly win as Braves phenom Ronald Acuna left in the seventh inning after a gruesome-looking incident in which he appeared to severely hyperextend his left knee when he planted his foot after crossing first base on an infield hit.
The prized rookie walked off the field after being attended to by Braves trainers and the initial diagnosis given by the team was "knee and lower-back pain," but Acuna was being examined at a Boston hospital after the game to determine the extent of his knee injury.
Braves manager Brian Snitker said he expected Acuna to accompany the team back to Atlanta on the Braves’ charter flight.
The Braves finished a six-game trip that included just one win in each series at Philadelphia and Boston.
“Yeah, it went from being a really you-know-what road trip to just a not very good one,” Snitker quipped.
While Foltynewicz was trimming his ERA to 2.55, Sale saw his jump by more than half a run to 2.76 after allowing five hits, six runs and three walks in 4 1/3 innings.
It was the second time the formidable left-hander faced the Braves in his career and the second time Sale got pounded by them. In a July 2016 game in Chicago, Sale allowed 10 hits, eight earned runs – matching his career high – and three homers in five innings of an 11-8 Braves win.
The Braves got off to a much-needed early lead when Flowers homered on an 0-2 fastball from Sale, his Chicago White Sox batterymate on a regular basis during 2011-2015.
It was Flowers’ second homer in 49 at-bats this season, but also his second homer in his third career at-bat against Sale.
“I’ve always thought he was an underrated hitter; he’s a great ballplayer,” Sale said of Flowers. “Obviously respect him. He’s probably caught more of my games than anybody else. He’s seen it quite a few times. You’ve got to be better there, though. Fastball right down the middle; not too many times you’re going to win that battle.”
In Sale’s 192 career starts he’s allowed six or more earned runs 13 times, with two of those games coming in his only two starts against the Braves. He’s 0-2 with a 13.50 ERA against them, having allowed 14 earned runs, 15 hits and four homers in 9 1/3 innings.
“Any time you score runs off him it’s big,” Snitker said. “I mean, good God, he’s one of those we talk about being the best in the game. We had good at-bats against them, so that was big. ...
“Just one of them days. We were due to have a good game here. We scored some runs (Saturday), so that was good. We haven’t been scoring any runs and the offense woke up. It was nice to see us back it up with another one today.”
After Flowers’ second-inning homer, Sale retired eight of the next nine batters including six strikeouts, but Dansby Swanson walked to start the fifth inning and kick off another Braves’ scoring outburst.
Charlie Culberson followed with a single to right field that was botched by Jackie Bradley, allowing a run. And after a one-out walk by Acuna, Freddie Freeman doubled to drive in two runs and send Sale to the showers.
It was the briefest outing of the season for Sale, who lasted at least five innings and allowed three or fewer earned runs in each of his 11 starts before Sunday, including six or more innings eight times and one or no earned runs seven times.
Flowers said it was not an advantage having caught Sale many times.
“I always found those more difficult, because it’s easy to try to call the game for him as you’re trying to hit off of him, and that can get you into trouble pretty quick,” Flowers said. “So I don’t think there’s any advantage to it, I think he’s just happened to make some mistakes to me in the times we’ve faced each other, and I’ve been fortunate to hit the barrel with it.”
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