Indians-Braves Preview

The Cleveland Indians continued their improbable run for a

playoff spot over the weekend. To extend their surge, they’ll have

to win in the toughest stadium for opponents in the major

leagues.

The Atlanta Braves, however, haven’t been at their best since

Jason Heyward was lost to a broken jaw, and they’ll be looking to

put a rough stretch behind them when these teams open a three-game

series at Turner Field on Tuesday night.

Cleveland (71-59) beat Minnesota 3-1 on Sunday for its fifth win

in six games and ninth in 13 since a six-game skid that seemed to

signal the end of its playoff hopes. The Indians committed four

errors and made several other mistakes in the field and on the

bases, but Drew Stubbs hit a tiebreaking two-out homer in the

eighth inning.

“We were trying every way we could to give it away,” Stubbs

said. “We played a very sloppy game, but it says a lot about this

team that we were able to hang in there and pull out the win.”

Locked in a tight battle for a wild-card spot and within

striking distance of the AL Central lead, Cleveland hasn’t been

fazed by this road-heavy stretch in which it plays 15 of 18 away

from home, going 6-3 in road games so far.

That prowess in opposing stadiums should be tested as Atlanta’s

44-18 record at Turner Field is the best in baseball. The Braves’

78-52 mark is also tops in the majors and has them 13 games up in

the NL East.

Plus, they’ll send out a red-hot rookie to open the set, with

Alex Wood (2-2, 2.50 ERA) looking for a fifth straight outstanding

start. Wood has posted a 1.11 ERA in going 1-0 in four August

starts, not allowing more than one run in any of them.

The left-hander went six innings and gave up one run in a 4-1,

10-inning victory over the New York Mets on Wednesday.

That game, however, also saw Heyward get injured on a pitch from

the Mets’ Jonathan Niese, and his team appeared to feel the effects

of his possible loss for the season in the next series. Among the

top three in the NL in runs, the Braves scored five times in

dropping three straight to St. Louis before avoiding the sweep with

a 5-2 win Sunday.

“You don’t want to get swept especially by a team that’s a

playoff team that you have the potential of seeing,” said

outfielder Jordan Schafer, who broke out of a slump by going 2 for

4 with a double, triple and an RBI. “You don’t want them to have

confidence if you face them in the playoffs.”

Atlanta opens a nine-game homestand by facing Danny Salazar

(1-1, 3.52), like Wood a rookie who has put together some

impressive performances. The right-hander gave up one run in 5 1-3

innings of a 4-1, 14-inning win over the Los Angeles Angels on

Tuesday in his fourth career start.

He struck out seven, giving him 29 in 23 innings, and allowed

three hits. Salazar has given up 15 hits in his four outings.

First baseman Nick Swisher continued his roll Sunday, going 2

for 3 to leave him at 13 for 43 (.302) with three home runs and

nine RBIs in his last 10 games. He has gone hitless once in that

span.

Cleveland has posted a 1.83 ERA in the past six contests.