Sale, Red Sox aim for sweep of Braves

BOSTON — On July 8, 2016, Chris Sale — then of the Chicago White Sox — was slapped around by the Atlanta Braves to the tune of eight runs and 10 hits in five innings.

On Sunday, Sale, now the ace of the Boston Red Sox, gets a shot at evening the score when he faces Atlanta’s Mike Foltynewicz as the Red Sox look for the three-game interleague sweep at Fenway Park.

Both have pitched well this season — Sale just a bit better.

Foltynewicz comes in 3-3 with a 2.72 ERA and having surrendered two earned runs or fewer in nine of his 10 starts. He has struck out 62 in 53 innings. He has made two career appearances against Boston, both in relief.

Meanwhile, Sale has emerged as a Cy Young contender NOT pitching for the Houston Astros, going 5-1 with a 2.17 ERA and posting 96 strikeouts in 70 2/3 innings. He is 4-0 with a 2.38 ERA in his last six starts and has 45 Ks in his last four.

Saturday’s 8-5 victory kept the Red Sox in first place in the American League East.

Atlanta comes in with four losses in its last five games. The Phillies took two of three from the Braves in Philadelphia to start Atlanta’s road trip. The Braves had won 11 of their previous 12 road games before this 1-4 stretch.

The Braves have failed to hold leads in each of the first two games in Boston.

Boston area native Sean Newcomb, pitching at Fenway for the first time and in front of family and friends, lasted only three innings Saturday, ending an impressive pitching run.

“Wasn’t clicking,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I don’t know, it just wasn’t. He’s bound to have one of those. … He just didn’t have it.”

Newcomb estimated a personal crowd of some 200 at the game, saying, “There were a couple of my buddies near the dugout, so I could hear some of the stuff they were saying, but that was it. It was cool to get a chance to have the family and friends come watch.”

Dustin Pedroia made his 2018 debut for the Red Sox on Saturday after recovering from knee surgery and went 0-for-4 with a walk and run scored. He batted sixth in his first game back and looked quick diving into home plate for his run.

“To get an opportunity to play baseball here, I never take it for granted,” Pedroia said. “So today was up there with any of the moments I’ve been here.” Veteran right-hander Anibal Sanchez, who turned in a strong rehab outing in Triple-A on Friday night (after one rocky start) will likely start for the Braves on Tuesday night at home against the New York Mets.

Sanchez was 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA in three starts out of the gate before suffering a right hamstring injury.

On the Boston side, Drew Pomeranz, who struggled again Saturday, will be making his next start Thursday in Houston. Steven Wright, an All-Star starter for Boston in 2016, worked three innings of scoreless relief Saturday, picking up his first victory of the season in his fourth relief outing after his season was delayed by rehab and suspension.

“It wasn’t a great day for him, but we trust this guy,” Boston manager Alex Cora said of Pomeranz, a 17-game winner last season, when he also had a rough start. “He was in the same spot last year and all of a sudden he turned it around. We’ll go to Houston Thursday and make adjustments in the next few days and see if it works out.”

Nick Markakis is 5-for-14 and Kurt Suzuki 8-for-25 lifetime against Sale. Eduardo Nunez (2-for-9) and J.D. Martinez (1-for-3) are the only Red Sox players with at least three at-bats against Foltynewicz.