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Mar 31, 2024 4:33 am

Phillies look to slow down potent Braves offense

jarred kelenic

The Atlanta Braves have more than enjoyed the past two regular seasons, topping the 100-win total in back-to-back years for the first time since 2002-03.

Postseason play, however, has been a different story. Atlanta has seen two seasons in a row come to an end at the hands of hated National League East rival Philadelphia Phillies in the division series.

Two games into the 2024 season, Atlanta has made a statement against the Phillies, outscoring them 21-7 in a pair of convincing wins in Philadelphia.

Saturday, Atlanta tallied 19 hits on its way to a 12-4 win at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, and the Braves aim for a sweep of the Phillies there on Sunday.

Philadelphia hands the ball to left-hander Ranger Suarez on Sunday. The Braves are one of the teams he has faced the most in his seven-year career, making seven starts against them. In 16 total appearances against Atlanta, Suarez is 2-2 with a 3.00 ERA and one save.

The Braves will turn to Chris Sale, whom they acquired from the Boston Red Sox in December. Since making 25 starts in 2019, Sale made a total of 11 starts from 2020-22 as he dealt with injuries. Last season he made 20 starts, going 6-5 with a 4.30 ERA over 102 2/3 innings with Boston.

He is 1-2 with a 5.00 ERA over 18 innings in three career starts against the Phillies. He gave up three runs over six innings against Philadelphia last season.

As for that Braves offense, Atlanta left fielder Jarred Kelenic — acquired from the Seattle Mariners in a December trade — starred in Saturday’s win, finishing 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs.

“Jarred was really good, great at-bats,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “These first two games have been tough, when you look at the two pitchers that he’s faced, so it’s really encouraging.”

Kelenic and the rest of the Braves lineup tagged Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola for 12 hits and seven earned runs Saturday, chasing the right-hander after 4 1/3 innings pitched.

“We’ve seen him a lot,” Snitker said of Nola. “He’s seen us a lot. He is some kind of competitor, and I thought we did a good job with our approach against him.”

Reigning National League MVP Ronald Acuna Jr. was one of five Atlanta batters to collect three hits Saturday, joining Kelenic, Ozzie Albies, Michael Harris II and Orlando Arcia.

Albies and Harris each hit their first home runs of the season, while Matt Olson and Marcell Ozuna also homered, picking up from last year’s Atlanta offense that smashed a league record-tying 307 homers.

As for Philadelphia, the highly anticipated 2024 season has gotten off to the wrong start, with much of the blame falling on two days of subpar pitching.

On Opening Day Friday, it was a bullpen implosion that saw the Phillies allow nine earned runs over the final three innings. On Saturday, it was Nola’s seven runs allowed through his first three innings pitched.

“I didn’t get the leadoff hitter out much,” Nola said. “I feel like they kept finding holes, they hit some pretty good pitches. I’ll go back and look, but I feel like they only hit a few balls hard.”

“I thought he threw the ball okay,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “It just seemed like every ball they put in play went for a base hit, and he didn’t get a lot of swings and misses.”

Nola, who debuted with the club in 2015, signed a seven-year, $172 million contract in November.

–Field Level Media

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