Ozuna homers twice, Sale shuts down former team as Braves beat Red Sox 5-0


ATLANTA (AP) — Marcell Ozuna kept up his torrid start with two more homers and Chris Sale pitched six innings against his former team, leading the Atlanta Braves to a 5-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox and a sweep of their two-game interleague series Wednesday night.

Ozuna hit a three-run shot in the first inning and added a solo drive in the third off Nick Pivetta, who was roughed up in his first start since coming off the injured list.

The slugger known as “Big Bear” passed Shohei Ohtani for the MLB lead with his 11th and 12th homers, and he also tops the big leagues with 38 RBIs. He drove one to the warning track in his final at-bat and heard chants of “MVP! MVP!” from the crowd at Truist Park.

Ozuna shrugged off the adulation, which is a far cry from a year ago when he was struggling badly and his time in Atlanta appeared to be winding down.

“Even if you do great, you have to be on the same level," he said. "Don't get comfortable.”

Sale (5-1) pitched for the Red Sox from 2018-23 — a tenure that began with a World Series championship but was largely marred by injuries before he was traded to Atlanta this past winter.

It was strange facing his former team, but he quickly settled in.

“I respect those guys. I love those guys,” Sale said. “But we're here to win.”

The left-hander sure seems to have regained the form that made him one of baseball’s most dominant starters. He fanned 10 for the 82nd double-digit strikeout game of his career and got a big lift from left fielder Jarred Kelenic, who leaped above the yellow line at the 385-foot mark to snatch away a potential homer by Garrett Cooper.

“I went into the offseason on a mission,” Sale said, “I got after it. I knew I had to do it this year."

Speaking of comebacks, look how far Ozuna has come. On this date a year ago, he was hitting .146 and seemed on the verge of being released by the Braves. He rebounded to post 40 homers with 100 RBIs, and he's on pace for even loftier numbers this year.

Orlando Arcia also went deep for the Braves. Dylan Lee and Ray Kerr followed Sale to complete the seven-hit shutout.

Pivetta (1-2) made his first appearance since April 3 after being sidelined with a right elbow strain.

He appeared to get through the first with no trouble when Austin Riley hit into what was ruled an inning-ending double play. But the call was overturned when the replay showed Riley getting his foot to the bag just ahead of the relay throw.

Matt Olson reached on a dribbler that went for an infield hit, and Ozuna followed with a 372-foot shot that barely cleared the right-field wall. Three pitches later, Arcia made it back-to-back homers with another opposite-field shot to right.

Instead of getting out of the inning unscathed, Pivetta found himself in a 4-0 hole — a rare slip-up by a Boston rotation that has been stellar this season. He lasted four innings, giving up seven hits and all five Atlanta runs.

“Austin beating that ball out is a huge play,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “That gives us four runs, which is pretty much the difference in the game.”