Chris Sale has experienced plenty of physical and mental agony in the second half of his MLB career, as injury troubles have limited him to only 31 starts in the previous four seasons. All of that adversity has helped him truly appreciate the good days he is currently enjoying with the Atlanta Braves (6-2).

The latest feel-good moment came following his debut in Truist Park on Sunday afternoon, which looked incredibly similar to his first start with the team against the Philadelphia Phillis at the end of March. Sale gave up two runs and struck out six batters without recording a walk in 5 1/3 innings of work.

Aside from a shaky fourth inning that featured an ill-timed balk, the left-hander looked to be in cruise control. The home crowd showed its gratitude for Sale's strong showing, which helped Atlanta earn a 5-2 win to complete the three-game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

A seven-time All-Star and former World Series champion is generally used to being showered with praise, but this reception hit differently for Sale. “This was my first time pitching here ever, and then it was my first time pitching here as a Brave, so it was special,” he said, according to's Mark Bowman. “I felt the energy throughout the whole game.”

This love affair between player and fan base will ideally continue well beyond the honeymoon phase, as the team is going to be leaning on Chris Sale more than it may have initially thought.

Did Chris Sale just become the Braves' X-factor?

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Chris Sale (51) pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning at Truist Park.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Injury-prone pitchers on the north side of 35 do not inspire much confidence or trust, but Atlanta clearly believes in the 6-foot-6 starting pitcher. General manager Alex Anthopoulos acquired the Florida native from the Boston Red Sox and quickly inked him to a two-year, $38 million extension in the offseason. That gamble could pay off in a big way with Spencer Strider possibly out for the year with an elbow injury.

A wild card whose name has been far removed from the word “reliable” for the past few years now figures to carry a significant role in the starting pitching rotation. When considering how frequently disaster befell Sale in Boston, that could be a scary scenario for the Braves. But maybe, just maybe he is turning a corner with one of the best-run organizations in baseball.

Chris Sale is 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA, 13 strikeouts and a 1.03 WHIP through his first two outings for Atlanta. While it is too early in the season to properly evaluate anything, Sale's control and composure have been sharp. This auspicious beginning comes after a 2023 campaign in which he logged 20 starts, by far the most he has thrown since 2019.

Manager Brian Snitker is going to have to ease him into a bigger workload, but the team is likely satisfied with his production to this point. Moreover, the questions concerning Sale plague other key arms in the Braves' staff. Max Fried missed more than half of 2023, Charlie Morton missed the playoffs and Spencer Strider could be headed for Tommy John surgery.

If Atlanta is going to rely on an unlikely hero to step up amid the uncertainty, it should probably be someone who used to be one of the best at his position.