Chris Sale tosses 5 strong innings, Braves avoid sweep with 5-2 win over Mariners

SEATTLE (AP) — Chris Sale allowed one run over five innings and struck out nine, Austin Riley had the big blow at the plate with a two-run triple, and the Atlanta Braves salvaged the final game of a three-game series with a 5-2 win over the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday.

The NL East-leading Braves rebounded after suffering back-to-back defeats for the first time this season with another strong start from Sale and Atlanta’s offense taking advantage of an error to score four unearned runs off Seattle starter Emerson Hancock.

“Swung the bat well, I thought. Even some of the outs were really good, so that's a really good sign any time you get something going offensively," Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “We've been kind of struggling to hit on all cylinders. It looked a little bit closer today.”

Sale (4-1) continued to flash signs of his former self — one of the most dominant lefties in the game before injuries sidetracked his career. He used his assortment of arm angles and pitch shapes to reach a season high in strikeouts while scattering six hits. The only run Sale allowed came with two outs in the fifth inning on Jorge Polanco’s blooper.

Sale won his third straight decision and has a 2.36 ERA over his last three starts.

“I want to get back to doing what I know I can do. What I'm capable of doing, and just doing what I need to do for this team,” Sale said. “As a starting pitcher we pride ourselves on posting and getting deep into games and that's what we're here to do.”

Atlanta scored four times in the fourth inning, all with two outs. Right fielder Mitch Haniger gave the Braves that opportunity when he dropped Orlando Arcia’s popup down the right field line. It was Seattle’s second error of the day and the most costly.

Hancock retired Chadwick Tromp for the second out, but Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies reached on back-to-back singles to plate one run, and Haniger couldn’t come up with Riley’s deep drive as he crashed into the right field wall. That gave the Braves a 4-0 lead.

Matt Olson capped the inning with a sharp single off reliever Trent Thornton that scored Riley.

“Too many free bases today. Uncharacteristically we walked a few guys, made some errors and you've got to play clean to beat good teams and they took advantage of it there in the fourth inning,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said.

The Mariners missed out on an unlikely sweep of one of the best teams in the majors, but still closed out a nine-game stretch going 6-3 against Texas, Arizona and Atlanta.

Seattle brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth, when Raisel Iglesias walked Luke Raley and gave up a single to Julio Rodríguez. But Iglesias got popups from Haniger and Polanco and a groundout from Cal Raleigh to finish off his eighth save.

Hancock (3-3) lasted just 3 2/3 innings and was struggling even before the problems in the fourth. He walked four, including a bases-loaded walk to Marcell Ozuna with two outs in the third after Hancock was ahead 0-2 in the count.

“I feel like I didn't really execute pitches that well, especially in the fourth. You really got to bear down there and make some pitches to get out of it,” Hancock said.

UP NEXT

Braves: Atlanta will open a three-game series on Friday against the Los Angeles Dodgers. RHP Charlie Morton (2-0, 3.60 ERA) will start the opener.

Mariners: After an off day, Seattle opens a three-game series in Houston on Friday with RHP George Kirby (3-2, 4.18) starting.

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