Braves’ Chris Sale faces Giants, looks to lock up 11th win, All-Star slot

Atlanta pitcher Chris Sale could all but clinch a spot on the All-Star Game roster on Wednesday night when the Braves try to square their series with the visiting San Francisco Giants.

The Giants hit three home runs on Tuesday to win the opening game of the three-game set 5-3.

The veteran left-hander Sale (10-3, 2.79 ERA) is tied with Philadelphia’s Ranger Suarez for the most wins in the National League and ranks No. 7 in strikeouts in the major leagues. He will oppose San Francisco right-hander Jordan Hicks (4-4, 3.36) on Wednesday.

Sale struck out a season-high 11 in seven innings in his most recent start on Thursday against the Chicago White Sox. But he took the loss after giving up a solo home run to Luis Robert Jr. in the first inning of a 1-0 setback.

“Not too often a first-inning solo homer wins a game, but it happens,” Sale said. “We just got to keep plugging away, keep doing our thing. It’s not early anymore, by any means, but we still know what we have to do, and we’ve just got to keep playing good baseball and not get too down when it’s not good and not get too up when it is.”

Sale has made two career starts against the Giants, going 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA. Both starts came in 2014.

Hicks has been a consistent force since returning to a starting role this season in his first season with the Giants. He has pitched five-plus innings in 13 of his 17 starts. However, Hicks has lost his past three decisions and hasn’t won since May 19.

He did not get a decision in his most recent start against the Chicago Cubs on Thursday, when he allowed three runs on five hits, two walks and seven strikeouts in five innings. The Cubs won 5-3 in 10 innings.

Hicks already has thrown a career-high 85 2/3 innings, the most since his rookie season in 2018, when he worked 77 2/3 innings out of the bullpen for the St. Louis Cardinals.

“He keeps himself in great shape,” San Francisco manager Bob Melvin said. “Obviously, there’s going to be periods when the velo is going to be down and maybe not as crisp with some of his breaking stuff. Whether that’s where he is in the innings right now, I’m not sure, but the last few games they’ve made him work pretty hard.”

Hicks will make his first career start against the Braves. He has made nine relief appearances against them, with little success, pitching to a 6.75 ERA with one save. In his lone appearance against the Braves in 2023, he allowed two runs in two innings in an 8-4 loss while pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Both teams made roster moves to start the series. San Francisco activated outfielder Mike Yastrzemski on Tuesday, and he went 2-for-2. He had been on the injured list since June 21 with a left oblique strain. The Braves activated left-handed reliever A.J. Minter, who had been out since May 30 with a left hip impingement, but did not use him in the opener.

Atlanta is likely to be without starting shortstop Orlando Arcia, who missed Tuesday’s game with an abscessed tooth, and outfielder Ramon Laureano, who is out with back discomfort. Pitching coach Rick Kranitz is away from the team on a family matter.

–Field Level Media