Chris Sale hit hard by former Red Sox teammate in Braves debut

SEATTLE – Chris Sale looked solid Atlanta Braves debut on Sunday, with one notable exception.

Kyle Schwarber welcomed his former Red Sox teammate to the National League East with a leadoff home run. The Philadelphia Phillies slugger sent Sale’s second pitch of the contest 382 feet to right at 114.4 mph.

Schwarber and Sale overlapped briefly when the slugger arrived in Boston at the 2021 trade deadline, but their time as teammates included an unexpected Red Sox playoff run. Expected to finish in last place, the Sox instead clinched one of the AL Wild Cards and defeated the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays before falling to the Astros in Game 6 of the ALCS.

Otherwise, the 35-year-old (his birthday was Mar. 30) left-hander’s performance was strong. He departed after 5 1/3 innings, having allowed two earned runs on five hits, walked two, hit a batter, and struck out seven. He threw 83 pitches, 56 for strikes (67.4%).

It was Sale’s longest season debut since 2018. He pitched Opening Day ’19 in Seattle but the Mariners knocked him out after three frames, charged with seven earned runs. After missing the entire ’20 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, and starting the subsequent two campaigns on the injured list (he pitched five innings in his eventual debuts), the southpaw lasted just three innings in his ’23 debut, when the Orioles tagged him for seven earned runs. He only threw 83 or more pitches in nine of his 20 starts for the Sox last season.

Sale spent six seasons in Boston following a trade from the Chicago White Sox in December 2016. Before injuries derailed his career, he was an All-Star back-to-back in ’17 and ’18, finished second and fourth in AL Cy Young voting, respectively, and made a memorable ninth-inning performance to clinch the 2018 World Series.

The Red Sox traded Sale to the Braves just before the new year for infielder Vaughn Grissom. As a player with 10-and-5 rights, he had to agree to the trade.

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