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Braves 11, White Sox 8: Atlanta #BARVES, but Chris Sale somehow sloppier

Condor wastes support and multiple Atlanta mistakes in ugly end to glorious first half

David Banks/Getty Images

If you missed tonight’s game and were limited heard sporadic updates, you might’ve anticipated a very different final score. For instance, if you only knew:

  • Chris Sale was starting against Atlanta ...
  • ... the Sox hit Matt Wisler like they should have ...
  • ... in part because the Braves looked like the #BARVES in the field ...
  • ... while the White Sox turned yet another triple play ...
  • ... and Chris Beck and Michael Ynoa pitched ...

You might’ve assumed that the White Sox cruised to an easy victory.

There are only a few things that could’ve rendered all of these elements moot, and perhaps it was the most unlikely: a Chris Sale disaster start.

The recipe that worked well enough for a 14-2 record backfired on the Condor tonight. The Braves hit three homers — two by left-handed hitters, and one by Tyler Flowers —over the first four innings, then didn’t need to leave the yard in the decisive four-run fifth.

Sale’s three gopher balls were all energy-conscious fastballs — a first-pitch fastball to Freddie Freeman at 93, a 1-0 fastball to Tyler Flowers at 92, and a first-pitch fastball to Nick Markakis at 90. That was bad enough.

His night ended after one more inning, and on a sourer note. With two outs and two on, Sale gave up three straight doubles, including the first to Jeff Francoeur on a first-pitch fastball that scored two. Making matters worse, he didn’t even back up on the relay, allowing Francoeur to take third when a short hop from Carlos Sanchez’s throw home glanced off Dioner Navarro’s mitt.

Sale’s ugly line — 5 IP, 10 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 3 HR, 1 HBP — caused his ERA to inflate to 3.38 at the end of the first half, putting it in the neighborhood of his 2015 ERA (3.41). At least the 14-3 record will be harder to immediately undo.

It came at an awful time, because this should’ve been a hilarious winner. The Sox started the bottom of the second trailing 3-1, but they ended it leading 4-3 because the Braves showed why they were 29-57.

First, Carlos Sanchez hit a one-out double and advanced to third when the Braves botched the throw back to the infield. J.B. Shuck then drove him in with his own "double" after his pop-up dropped between four Braves in shallow right. Tim Anderson then grounded a legit, boring single through the left side to put runners on the corners.

Up came Adam Eaton, who once again decided to bunt. Wisler made a good decision by throwing inside, forcing Eaton to fall back after bunting the ball to the left side in self-defense. Wisler then made a terrible decision to chase the ball down and attempt a hopeless glove flip home to get Shuck because the ball would have spun foul if he left it alone. Shuck scored and Eaton reached on a bunt single.

Anderson and Eaton emphasized the speed aspect further by executing a double steal, and Jose Abreu hit a fly to center that scored Anderson. It also allowed Eaton to reach third, because Ender Inciarte thought he caught the third out. His second mistake didn't result in a run like his first one did, but it achieved the opposite of saving face.

And if everything wasn’t already breaking the Sox’ way early, the third inning happened. Sale dug himself a hole by allowing a walk and a single to start the inning, but Freeman’s smash to the left side found Anderson’s glove on a short hop. Chase D’Arnaud, the lead runner, assumed he caught it and returned to the bag, which is where Anderson had to go anyway. The shortstop tagged D’Arnaud, stepped on second, then fired to first in time to get Freeman for the 6-3 triple play, the Sox’ third of the season.

How did they not win this one?

Bullet points:

*Gordon Beckham and Flowers combined to go 5-for-9 with a homer, double and HBP.

*Robin Ventura called in Beck with the hope of getting a couple innings, but Beck gave up hits to the three batters he faced, and they all came around to score.

*The Sox hit a couple homers themselves — Eaton’s fifth and Todd Frazier’s 24th.

Record: 44-42 | Box score | Highlights