Even the addition of yearly interleague play has not substantially increased the number of trips taken to Cleveland by the Atlanta Braves, which visit the north coast this weekend for an abbreviated three-day trip.
The Indians (11-7) return home after salvaging a road trip that had taken a rough turn when the team was swept last weekend in Kansas City by the Royals. Instead of crumbling, the team responded by taking all three from the scorching hot Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park during the week. The sweep was the team’s second of the season, following a four-game defeat of the Toronto Blue Jays earlier in the month. The 5-4 mark on the road trip moved the club to even at 6-6 away from home this season. During the Indians’ brief upcoming homestand, they will look to improve upon a 5-1 record at Progressive Field so far in April.
The Braves (9-9) have cooled off a bit after a tough homestand against the New York Mets and Arizona Diamondbacks last week. After splitting a pair with the Mets and taking Monday off, they were swept in three straight by the Snakes to post a 2-5 stay at SunTrust Field. Atlanta did not make a lot of noise in the offseason, primarily adding former Indians third baseman Josh Donaldson on a massive one-year contract while bringing back veteran outfielder Nick Markakis, but the team did lock up some of its key pieces of the future in the last month when it signed youngsters Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies to contract extensions.
PITCHING PROBABLES AND NOTES:
TV: Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio (4/20); Fox Sports South (4/20); ESPN (4/21); MLB.tv (all)
Radio (all): Cleveland Indians Radio Network; 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan, Rock 100.5, Braves Radio Network
TRANSACTIONS and INJURY NOTES:
Mike Clevinger (SP) – 60-day injured list (4/9) – right upper back/Teres major muscle strain
Francisco Lindor (SS) – activated from 10-day injured list (4/20)
Brad Miller (2B) – declined outright to Columbus and became free agent (4/17)
Hanley Ramirez (DH) – designated for assignment (4/20)
Danny Salazar (P) – 60-day injured list (3/24); right shoulder rehab
Bradley Zimmer (OF) – 10-day injured list (3/28); right shoulder rehab
Shane Carle (P) – optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett (4/18)
Mike Foltynewicz (SP) – 10-day injured list (3/25) – right elbow soreness; on rehab assignment
Alex Jackson (C) – optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett (4/17)
Brian McCann (C) – activated from 10-day injured list (4/17)
Darren O’Day (RP) – 10-day injured list (3/25) – right forearm strain
Mike Soroka (RP) – recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett (4/18)
Jonny Venters (RP) – 10-day injured list (4/15) – right calf strain
Arodys Vizcaino (CL) – 10-day injured list (4/11) – recovery from April 2019 right shoulder surgery; out for season
ALL-TIME HEAD-TO-HEAD – series even at 6-6
AT TURNER FIELD
June 18, 2004 – Indians 4, Braves 2
June 19, 2004 – Braves 4, Indians 0
June 20, 2004 – Indians 5, Braves 2
AT PROGRESSIVE FIELD
June 15, 2007 – Braves 5, Indians 4
June 16, 2007 – Braves 6, Indians 2
June 17, 2007 – Indians 5, Braves 2
AT TURNER FIELD
August 27, 2013 – Braves 2, Indians 0
August 28, 2013 – Braves 3, Indians 2
August 29, 2013 – Braves 3, Indians 1
AT TURNER FIELD
June 27, 2016 – Indians 8, Braves 3
June 28, 2016 – Indians 5, Braves 3
June 29, 2016 – Indians 3, Braves 0
BRAVES BALANCING YOUTH AND VETERAN LEADERSHIP
The young star Acuna has shown that last season was no fluke. The second-year left fielder is hitting a robust .317 with a .442 on-base percentage and a .651 slugging mark. He leads the Braves with six homers and is second on the squad with 14 runs batted in. The 21-year-old appeared in 111 games for Atlanta last season and hit .293 with a .366 OBP and .552 slugging mark with 26 doubles, four triples, 26 homers, and 64 RBI.
Dansby Swanson is the Braves’ leading RBI man with 18 in his first 18 games. He has supplied the lineup with a .273/.391/.564 slash with two doubles, a triple, and four home runs out of the shortstop spot.
Albies works as his double play partner up the middle and is tied with Freddie Freeman for the team’s lead in hits on the year with 22. Like Acuna, he was given a contract extension to start his season and has rewarded the club with a .289/.349/.434 slash, three doubles, one triple, and two home runs.
Freeman appeared in all 162 games a season ago for the Braves while making his third career All-Star team. In addition to leading the league with 191 hits and 44 doubles, he won his first Gold Glove Award and finished fourth in the National League MVP voting. He is off to another good start in his tenth big league season, slashing .324/.446/.500 with six doubles, two homers, and nine RBI.
The Indians will welcome Lindor back into the lineup, but he is not expected to play in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader. It remains to be seen how manager Terry Francona will construct his lineup with one of his most valuable weapons back in the dugout. Lindor, 25 and kicking off his fifth big league season, led all of baseball in plate appearances and runs scored last year and was tops in the American League in at bats while finishing sixth in the MVP voting and earning his second consecutive Silver Slugger Award and third straight All-Star nod. He hit .417 during his rehab assignment at Triple-A Columbus with a double and a pair of solo home runs.
Carlos Santana remains the team’s top hitter across the board. He leads the club in runs scored (12), hits (21), doubles (5), RBI (11), walks (14), intentional walks (5), batting average (.389), on-base percentage (.515), slugging (.537), and OPS (1.052).
Jason Kipnis has hit the ground running since being activated from the 10-day injured list at the start of the week. He has three hits in eleven at bats (.273) with a double, a stolen base, and a run batted in.
H. Ramirez was cut loose by the Tribe on Saturday morning. In 16 games, he hit .184 with a .298 OBP and .327 slugging mark with a double, two homers, and eight RBI. While hardly the worst performer in the Indians’ lineup, Ramirez’s inability to play the field at the age of 35 caused some issues with roster flexibility and lineup construction.
BRING ON THE FISH
With the first half of the homestand complete, the Indians will wrap up their brief stay in Cleveland with a two-game set with the Miami Marlins beginning Tuesday night. The Braves will stay in Ohio, but will head to the opposite side of the state as they face the Cincinnati Reds for three games beginning on Tuesday.
Photo: Logan Riely/Getty Images