Braves have four homers, 19 hits to rout Phillies again

AP photo by Derik Hamiton / Atlanta Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies, right, celebrates with third baseman Austin Riley after hitting a two-run homer during the first inning of Saturday's game against the host Philadelphia Phillies.
AP photo by Derik Hamiton / Atlanta Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies, right, celebrates with third baseman Austin Riley after hitting a two-run homer during the first inning of Saturday's game against the host Philadelphia Phillies.

PHILADELPHIA — A year after tying the Major League Baseball record for home runs in a season, the Atlanta Braves are still mashing the ball.

Ozzie Albies, Michael Harris II, Matt Olson and Marcell Ozuna all homered, and an expected battle of aces fizzled early in the Braves' 12-4 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday.

A 14-game winner in 2021 and 2022, Atlanta left-hander Max Fried lasted only seven batters, walked three of them and got just two outs before he was chased in the first inning trailing 3-2.

No worries for the Braves. Philadelphia's Aaron Nola was even worse.

In the right-hander's first regular-season start since he signed a seven-year, $172 million deal to stay with the Phillies, Nola had one of the worst outings of his MLB career. He surrendered homers to Albies and Olson as part of the 12 hits he gave up in just 4 1/3 innings. Nola allowed seven runs on another blustery day in front of 44,068 fans expecting a pitchers' duel.

The Braves battered Nola — who had made six straight opening-day starts — and five more Phillies pitchers for 19 hits a day after the six-time reigning National League East champs scored seven runs in the eighth inning of a 9-3 win in the season opener between division rivals.

Nola held his glove in hand, his head down, as he sauntered off the mound in the fifth.

It's only two games, but in Philadelphia there are already boos at the ballpark, social media malaise and concern over the state of the pitching staff. The Phillies allowed 21 runs in the first two games a year after they gave up 27 runs in the first two.

"The last few days haven't been good," shortstop Trea Turner said. "Long season, rough start, obviously not what we wanted."

J.T. Realmuto homered for the Phillies, who did make the playoffs as a wild card despite last year's rough start.

Jesse Chavez (1-0) bailed out Fried and pitched three innings out of the bullpen to pick up the win.

"Definitely off a little bit," Fried said. "I wasn't able obviously to get back on track as quickly as I wanted to and things kind of spiraled out of control."

Maybe it was the 27-minute rain delay that caused the game to be wonky from the start.

Recently retired NFL stars Fletcher Cox and Jason Kelce, who played for the Eagles, threw first pitches. Phillies first baseman Bryce Harper had his spikes signed by Kelce, and the slugger mimicked Cox's sack dance.

The game only went downhill for the Phillies. Alec Bohm made an error on the first batter of the game, and Albies followed with a homer for the Braves, who hit 307 of them last season to set the NL record and tie the 2019 Minnesota Twins for the overall mark. Harper then put a scare in all of Philadelphia when he chased down a foul ball and cartwheeled over a railing and plopped into a photographers well.

He was fine.

The Phillies made it 3-2 in the first on the strength of a double steal — led by burly home run hitter Kyle Schwarber, who swiped a bag for the first time since Game 1 of the 2022 World Series.

Hey, the Phillies lost that series, too. And now they'll lose this one to the Braves, again the frontrunners to emerge as the class of the NL East in the regular season.

Ronald Acuña Jr., Jarred Kelenic, Albies, Harris and Ozuna all had three hits. Ozuna added three RBIs. Much like the Braves blew the game open against Philadelphia's bullpen in the opener Friday, they scored four runs in the sixth off two relievers Saturday.

The Braves have 32 hits, 10 doubles and 14 extra-base hits in the first two games.

"The offense putting up a ton of runs helps, too," Fried said.

The Braves placed 2023 All-Star catcher Sean Murphy on the 10-day injured list with a strained left oblique muscle sustained during Friday's game.

Phillies right-handed reliever Luis Ortiz was forced out of Saturday's game in the sixth with a sprained left ankle.

The Braves will send left-hander Chris Sale (6-5, 4.30 ERA in 2023) to the mound against Phillies left-hander Ranger Suarez (4-6, 4.18 ERA) on Sunday for the finale.

Sale makes his first start for Atlanta since he was acquired in a December trade with the Boston Red Sox. He helped them to the 2018 World Series title but has made just 56 starts in the last four years.

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