Rangers, Braves send veteran lefties to mound in opener

Field Level Media

April 19, 2024 at 3:40 am.

Two veteran left-handers will take the mound when the Texas Rangers visit the Atlanta Braves for the first time since 2017 to start a three-game interleague series on Friday.

The Braves, coming off a three-game road sweep of the Houston Astros, are tied for the most wins in the National League and lead the NL East.

The defending World Series champion Rangers, who began the week by taking three of four against the host Detroit Tigers, are first in the American League West. Texas is completing the final leg of a 10-game road trip.

The pitching matchup pits Atlanta’s Chris Sale (1-1, 4.58 ERA) against Texas’ Andrew Heaney (0-2, 6.75).

Sale will be making his fourth start of the season. In his latest outing, on Saturday against the Miami Marlins, he took a loss after giving up five runs in seven innings. Sale matched his season high with seven strikeouts and walked a season-high three.

Sale has made 16 career appearances (12 starts) against the Rangers, going 8-2 with a 2.43 ERA. He has struck out 105 in 85 1/3 career innings against the Rangers. He last beat Texas 6-0 on Aug. 20, 2021, by pitching five shutout innings for the Boston Red Sox.

In his fourth start of the season, Heaney is looking for his first quality outing. On Saturday at Houston, he allowed two runs on four hits with four walks and one strikeout in 3 2/3 innings. Heaney has yet to pitch five innings in a start this year.

“I cannot feel great, physically not feel great, mechanically, not feel great, whatever it is, but there’s still just very simple ways of playing the game,” Heaney said after his latest start. “Go out there and get strike one. Make your pitches. Pitch around guys when you have a disadvantage of a matchup or you don’t feel like you have the right pitches in that moment, you know what I am saying?”

Heaney has one career appearance against the Braves. He received a no- decision in a 2021 start, allowing two runs in four innings.

Atlanta slugger Marcell Ozuna has a 16-game hitting streak, matching his career best, and is batting .379 (25-for-66) with eight home runs and 23 RBIs over that stretch.

“He’s on fire,” Braves pitcher Max Fried said. “There’s just no other way to say it. He’s taking great at-bats every single time he gets up there. You know he’s going to do some damage or at least hit the ball hard somewhere. He doesn’t look fooled. He’s really balanced, and he has a really good approach.”

With second baseman Ozzie Albies on the injured list due to a broken toe, the Braves have received solid offensive contributions from shortstop Orlando Arcia. He was 5-for-8 with a home and five RBIs in the series against Houston.

Texas right fielder Adolis Garcia has hit safely in seven of his past eight starts. He was 2-for-5 with a homer on Thursday as the Rangers beat the Tigers 9-7, and he is 12-for-29 (.414) in his past nine games. The long ball was his fifth of the season but his first in 13 games.

The Braves won two of three games against the Rangers last season in Arlington, Texas.

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