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.
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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.