Rotation may keep Sale from starting ASG, but he looks deserving

July 10th, 2024

PHOENIX -- appreciates being considered a top candidate to serve as the National League’s starting pitcher at next week’s All-Star Game, but his primary focus remains on helping the Braves win the World Series for the second time in four years.

Sale won’t be available to start the Midsummer Classic if he sticks to the plan to start against the Padres on Sunday, but he looked worthy of the honor as he produced another scoreless effort while helping the Braves claim a 6-2 win over the D-backs on Tuesday night at Chase Field.

“Anytime you’re in the discussion, that’s big,” Braves outfielder Adam Duvall said. “With his track record, I think he deserves that. It’s been exciting to play behind him all year. He’s one of my favorites.”

Marcell Ozuna doubled off Zac Gallen to begin a two-run second inning for the Braves, who have won four straight games for the first time since June 21 and for just the second time since April 27. Duvall’s three-run homer in the sixth chased Gallen and secured an MLB-best 12th win for Sale.

Sale is honored to be in the ASG starter discussion for the first time since he made a third straight start for the American League in 2018, but his focus is on notching a 13th win in San Diego on Sunday.

“I think that’s more fun for my friends and family and fans and stuff like that,” Sale said. “I appreciate it for sure. It’s nice, but I like to stay focused and keep my eyes on what’s important and take the ball when I need to.”

Sale tallied nine strikeouts, allowed five hits and surrendered two runs over 5 1/3 innings. He blanked the D-backs before Jake McCarthy tripled home a run with one out in the sixth. Even with the late damage, Sale still ranks third in the NL with a 2.74 ERA.

The 35-year-old hurler entered Tuesday leading all NL pitchers in fWAR (3.3), Fielding Independent Pitching (2.25) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (6.68). He ranked second in strikeout percentage (32.7) and Expected ERA (2.57).

“It’s fun watching him compete,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s just his stuff and the whole shooting match.”

Sale has exceeded the expectations that surrounded him as he entered this season having totaled just 151 innings over the past four injury-tarnished seasons. More accurately, he has already rejoined the same elite club he was part of when he finished top six in American League Cy Young Award voting over seven straight seasons (2012-18).

Sale served as the AL’s starting pitcher three consecutive seasons (2016-18). The only other pitchers to start three straight ASGs were Lefty Gomez, the AL’s starter during the first three years (1933-35) of the Midsummer Classic, and Robin Roberts, the NL’s starter from 1953-55.

The only pitchers to ever tally at least four ASG starts are: Gomez (5), Roberts (5), Don Drysdale (5), Jim Palmer (4), Randy Johnson (4) and Max Scherzer (4).

Mentioning Johnson’s name always gets Sale’s attention.

“Other than my dad and my grandparents, he’s about as influential in my life as anybody,” Sale said. “I just wanted to be like him and to pitch like him. But the most important thing is this team and winning games for this team. We’ve got our eyes on the prize and that’s what’s important.”