Pitching Propels Braves Over Tigers with Three-Game Sweep

By Olivia Sayer

Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Raisel Iglesias (26) works the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

ATLANTA – The Atlanta Braves may have found their groove. The winners of six-straight NL East titles completed a three-game sweep Wednesday of the Detroit Tigers at Truist Park. While the offense broke out in game three, it was Atlanta’s pitching staff that stole the show. 

“We’ll always win when we give up zero,” Sean Murphy, who finished the game 4-for-4, said. “So that’s the goal every time out.”

Prior to the season, Braves fans clamored for pitching. Many projected Atlanta to be a solid offensive team but questioned the durability of its starting rotation. As a result, president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos traded for former Red Sox starter Chris Sale and signed veteran reliever Reynaldo López.

About four months later, the additions appear to be paying dividends for the 41-31 Braves. Sale’s 2.98 ERA is the left-hander’s lowest since 2018 when he made the All-Star game. Sale proved himself as a stopper, ending multiple Atlanta losing streaks this season. The 35-year-old veteran also provides an energy that is infectious to his teammates. 

“He’s as awesome off the field as he is on the field,” Charlie Morton said, smiling. “When you watch guys that are that good, you wonder what they’re like as people. I’ve been really impressed with him. He’s a very dynamic person. He’s got a good heart, but at the same time, he can be really fiery.” 

Sale was expected to be a solid starter for Atlanta. Lopez, on the other hand, was not. Since 2021, the 30-year-old right-hander only started 10 of the 217 games he appeared in prior to coming to Atlanta. However, the Braves believed Lopez could be a viable starter and effectively stretched him out in Spring Training.  

Against the Tigers, Lopez lowered his MLB-leading ERA to 1.57 with five shutout innings. In 13 starts this season, he lasted less than five innings one time, while nine were over the mark. 

“He’s definitely exceeded expectations,” Anthopoulos told MLB Network. “If we thought he was going to do this, there wouldn’t have been a competition in spring.”

Anthopoulos said that the Braves felt comfortable with Lopez’s durability due to his past experience. From 2018-2019, the former White Sox started 65 games. 

Lopez, Sale, Morton and Max Fried combine for a rotation that carried the Braves through multiple offensive lulls. Despite an injury to Opening Day starter Spencer Strider, Atlanta still has the eighth-lowest ERA in MLB. 

The Braves’ fifth-starter spot has been a rotating wheel of prospects, with the latest, Spencer Schwellenbach, earning his first MLB win Tuesday. The 24-year-old’s six innings of one-run ball against the Tigers drew high praise from Snitker.

“It’s pretty rare,” Snitker said of Schwellenbach’s ability to not let the game speed up on him. “I remember the other Spencer being like that. It’s a good trait to have. He’s got such a good idea of what he wants to do, and he executes his pitches…All that kind of stuff that winning pitchers do.”

Atlanta, who is coming off its second sweep since April, will look to bring its momentum to Yankee Stadium. The Braves begin a three-game series in the Bronx Friday night with Sale on the mound

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