Indians Head to Atlanta for Last Series at Turner Field
Bob Toth | On 27, Jun 2016
For just the fourth time during the regular season, the Cleveland Indians and the Atlanta Braves will meet. The interleague series will be one featuring two teams heading in very opposite directions this season.
Things have been going very good for the city of Cleveland over the last week or so, and especially for the Indians (44-30), who have rattled off three straight sweeps and nine consecutive wins to put a little distance between themselves and the rest of the American League Central Division. Their lead over the Kansas City Royals sits at five games at the start of the day, but playing away from home is never an easy task. Even with that said, they are 21-18 on the road and have started their ten-game road trip with a 3-0 record after sweeping the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Cleveland did so by mashing four triples in the series opener before hitting four home runs in each of the final two games of the series.
The Braves (26-49) split a four-game divisional series with the New York Mets this weekend and have been playing much better baseball of late. They won six straight games last weekend and have been victorious in eight of their last eleven games. Several lengthy losing skids have left the Braves buried in the bottom of the National League East, 17.5 games behind the first place Washington Nationals.
Monday, 6/27, 7:10 PM ET – RHP Trevor Bauer (5-2, 3.20 ERA) vs. RHP John Gant (1-2, 4.45)
Tuesday, 6/28, 7:10 PM ET – RHP Corey Kluber (7-7, 3.59) vs. RHP Matt Wisler (3-7, 4.22)
Wednesday, 6/29, 7:10 PM ET – RHP Danny Salazar (9-3, 2.40) vs. TBA
Bauer and Kluber swapped spots in the rotation to get Kluber an extra day of rest after his complete game effort his last time out. Bauer, who also threw a complete game in his last start, will be pitching on regular rest after Thursday’s off day. He will make his first start in Atlanta since 2012 while a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks. He went four innings in a no-decision, giving up two runs on five hits with three walks, one hit batter, and three strikeouts.
Salazar will make his second start versus the Braves and in Atlanta in his career. He took the loss in his only previous outing back in 2013, when he lasted four innings and allowed two runs on three hits with two walks and three strikeouts.
Gant, a 23-year-old rookie right-hander, will make his fourth start and eleventh appearance overall for the Braves. He allowed a career-high three earned runs in his last outing against Miami. Wisler, a northwest Ohio native, will make his first career start against the Indians. Also a 23-year-old right-hander, he is in his second season in the Braves rotation and has a combined 11-15 record with a 4.48 ERA in his MLB career.
TV (all games) – Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio; Fox Sports Southeast (Atlanta)
Radio (all games) – Cleveland Indians Radio Network; 680 AM/93.7 FM (Atlanta)
Gordon Beckham (3B) – 15-day disabled list (June 2) – left hamstring strain
Jesse Biddle (RP) – 60-day disabled list (April 3) – recovery from October 2015 Tommy John surgery
Aaron Blair (RP) – optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett (June 25)
Mauricio Cabrera (P) – recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett (June 27)
Mike Foltynewicz (SP) – 15-day disabled list (May 31) – bone spur in right elbow
Andrew McKirahan (P) – 60-day disabled list (April 3) – recovery from March 2016 Tommy John surgery
Matt Marksberry (RP) – recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett (June 25)
Eric O’Flaherty (RP) – 15-day disabled list (June 13) – right knee strain
Alexi Ogando (RP) – designated for assignment (June 27)
Williams Perez (SP) – 15-day disabled list (June 7) – right rotator cuff tendinitis
Paco Rodriguez (RP) – 60-day disabled list (February 20) – recovery from September 2015 Tommy John surgery
Shae Simmons (P) – 15-day disabled list (April 3) – recovery from February 2015 Tommy John surgery
Mallex Smith (CF) – 15-day disabled list (June 20) – fractured left thumb
Daniel Winkler (P) – 60-day disabled list (April 11) – recovery from April 2016 elbow fracture surgery
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
In addition to a pair of postseason appearances against one another in 1948 and again in 1995, the Indians and Braves have had just three regular season meetings against one another since the advent of interleague play.
The two teams met first in 2004, with the Indians taking two of three games. They met again in 2007 in Cleveland, with Atlanta winning the first two before dropping the finale. They last faced off from Turner Field in 2013, when the Braves swept the Indians in late August, with Salazar, Joe Smith, and Ubaldo Jimenez each taking losses in a series that saw all three games decided by two runs or less. Craig Kimbrel was involved in all three games, earning a win in the middle game and saves on the book ends.
Pretty much everyone would be a new face for the Indians when glancing at the roster of the Atlanta Braves, with quite a bit of a youth movement and new pieces replacing the squad that was on the field back when the two clubs last met in 2013.
Twenty-five-year-old outfielder Ender Inciarte is one of those newer pieces. He was acquired from Arizona over the winter as part of the trade for starting pitcher Shelby Miller. He missed the first month of the season with a left hamstring strain, but returned during the second week of May. He is hitting .243 with a .311 on-base percentage through 49 games, with eight doubles, three triples, and eight RBI. He has stolen seven bases in ten attempts.
…AND OLD ONES
First baseman Freddie Freeman was enjoying his best MLB season when the Braves and Indians last met in 2013. He had a career-high 176 hits, 23 homers, and 109 RBI that season while batting .319. He is one of just five players to bat against Bauer in his career, as he doubled against him back in 2012. He is fifth in the National League with 81 strikeouts and is hitting .282 this season with 16 doubles, two triples, 13 homers, and 28 RBI for the Braves.
Outfielder Nick Markakis is in his second season in Atlanta after spending the first nine years of his career with the Baltimore Orioles. He has hit in seven straight games, including five different two-hit efforts, and eleven of his last 12. He is fifth in the NL with 21 doubles and 12th with 35 walks. Infielder Erick Aybar spent ten years with the Los Angeles Angels before joining the Braves from Anaheim as part of the trade for shortstop Andrelton Simmons.
Both catchers on the Braves roster presently – Tyler Flowers and A.J. Pierzynski – have seen the Indians plenty during their time with the Chicago White Sox organization. Flowers is hitting .245 on the season in 44 games, while Pierzynski has hit .197 in 46 games.
POWER OUTAGE IN ATLANTA
Through 75 games, the Braves have scored just 250 runs, the lowest total in all of baseball (3.33 runs per game). The Indians, by comparison, are averaging 4.88 runs per game (361 runs scored in 74 games played). That total is good for seventh-best in all of baseball and fourth-best in the American League.
Even more difficult to fathom, the Braves have managed just 37 homers this season, with 13 coming from Freeman. That total is 25 lower than the next closest club on the leaderboard – the San Francisco Giants, who have hit 62.
STARTS WITH STARTING PITCHING
The recipe for success this season has once again been the starting pitching for the Cleveland Indians. The rotation has earned 33 wins this season, tops in the AL and third-best in MLB. With a 3.63 ERA (seventh-best in baseball), they trail just the Texas Rangers’ 3.62 for the top ERA in the league. They have issued the seventh-fewest walks in all of baseball and struck out the fifth-most batters in the Majors. Their WHIP of 1.15 is tops in the AL and third in baseball.
RUN THIS WAY
Part of the game plan for the Indians offense this week should be a heavy dose of thievery. Through 75 games, Atlanta batteries have caught just nine base runners in 63 attempts, a 14.3% caught stealing rate. The 54 stolen bases that Braves backstops have given up are the fourth-most in baseball.
RAJAI MAY RUN WILD
Indians outfielder Rajai Davis brings with him a seven-game hitting streak to the series in Atlanta and the current title as AL stolen base leader, something that he may put to good use against the Braves.
He has hit the ball well in June as a whole, improving his batting average by 20 points. He has hit in 15 of the 19 games that he has played in.
Davis, who has stolen as many as 50 bags in 2010 while in Oakland, has already surpassed his total for all of 2015 with Detroit. Last season, he stole 18 in 26 opportunities. This season, he has picked off 21 in 24 chances, including six thefts in the last seven games.
CHISENHALL SWEEPING THE LEG
In the last week, Lonnie Chisenhall has provided stable offense from the right field corner. He had a four-hit game in Sunday afternoon’s win over Detroit, hitting a pair of singles, a triple, and a home run while driving in three runs. The often-streaky Chisenhall is now 9-for-20 (.450) at the plate over his last five games with a double, two triples, a homer, and six RBI to push his season average to the .290 mark.
WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE ABOUT LINDOR?
Shortstop Francisco Lindor has remained a driving force behind the Indians offensive attack and his contributions come in all different sorts of forms. He is hitting .311 on the season with a .369 OBP, has 14 doubles and ten homers, has scored 49 runs and driven in 39, and has matched his dozen stolen bases swiped last season already. He is hitting .312 over his last 30 games, .353 over his last 15, and .308 in his last seven.
ONE MORE FOR THE ROAD
Cleveland will conclude its second consecutive ten-game road trip through three different cities with a trip north to Canada, where the club will play four with the AL East’s Toronto Blue Jays before returning home to close out the first half of the season against Detroit and the New York Yankees. Atlanta will stay right at home to host the Miami Marlins.
Photo: AP Photo/Brett Davis