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Jun 14, 2024 2:50 am

Braves, Rays try to get offenses going in series opener

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The Atlanta Braves hope their bats will start to click once they return home to begin a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday.

Atlanta’s offense was in hiding for much of its road trip, during which the Braves went 3-6. Atlanta ended a five-game losing streak, something it hadn’t endured since September 2017, by beating the Baltimore Orioles 6-3 on Thursday.

Tampa Bay rallied to beat the Chicago Cubs 3-2 on Thursday in the rubber game of their three-game set. The Rays went 2-5 on their homestand.

The starting pitchers for the series opener are Atlanta left-hander Chris Sale (8-2, 3.01 ERA) and Tampa Bay right-hander Zack Littell (2-4, 3.63).

The Braves went 3-for-16 with runners in scoring position in the win Thursday — and that was a good day for them. Atlanta entered the day batting .203 (52-for-256) in such situations since May 1 — better than only the Cubs in that time. Atlanta batted a major league-best .310 with runners in scoring position through April 30.

The exception on offense has been designated hitter Marcell Ozuna, who is batting .322 with a National League-best 18 home runs and 57 RBIs.

“We’ve got to keep picking each other up and fighting,” Sale said. “Everyone is doing their work, everyone is grinding. Stay the course, keep working, keep picking each other up, keep having fun and stay loose. When it clicks, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Sale bounced back from his worst start of the season (eight runs in four innings on June 1) to post a solid appearance last Friday in a 2-1 loss at Washington. He worked seven innings and allowed two runs with 10 strikeouts. It was the ninth time in 12 starts that Sale has allowed two or fewer runs.

“Chris was great,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said of the start. “His stat line is really good. He pitched really well. It’s just a shame we couldn’t get him any runs.”

Sale has made 24 appearances — 22 starts — in his career against Tampa Bay, going 10-7 with a 3.06 ERA. He was roughed up in his only start against the Rays in 2023, allowing six runs — five earned — in four innings.

Littell will make his 14th start of the season and is seeking his first win since May 11. In his last outing on Sunday against Baltimore, he took the loss after allowing three runs in six innings.

Littell will be making his first career start against the Braves. In nine previous appearances, he’s 1-0 with a 6.43 ERA. He pitched in two games against Atlanta in 2023 and compiled a 6.75 ERA in four innings.

The Rays haven’ been hitting, either. They averaged only 2.57 runs and hit .217 (10-for-46) with runners in scoring position on the homestand.

Tampa Bay’s Yandy Diaz had two hits on Thursday and has reached base safely in a season-high 16 straight games. Diaz is batting .286 (18-for-63) during the streak.

“He’s starting to do things that are a little more Yandy-ish,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said.

–Field Level Media

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