Few things can top riding a nine-game overall win streak and being 9-0 on the season against the Detroit Tigers. I do not know if beating up on one of the worst teams is one of those things, but we might find out when the Cleveland Indians travel south to face the Atlanta Braves.
No matter what happens against the Braves, even if the Indians get swept, the Indians are in a fantastic posiiton and fans should still be thrilled with the team. Even if the Indians fall apart against the Braves and the Kansas City Royals sweep the St. Louis Cardinals, the Indians are still in first place on Thursday morning -- it would take a lot of bad baseball for the Chicago White Sox or Tigers to be a factor anytime soon. That is a good feeling to have as we head into a new series.
If you see a Braves fan during this series, don't give them a hard time. Just give them a hug, they could use one right now.
Monday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Trevor Bauer (RHP) vs. John Gant (RHP)
Rookie pitcher John Gant had a rough start to the season coming out of the Braves bullpen, but ever since he was moved to a starting role on June 12 he has been an effective starter for Atlanta. In his three starts, he has lasted at least four innings and allowed three or fewer runs, while registering a combined 15 strikeouts and issuing six walks.
His last start was a 5.2-inning loss to the Miami Marlins in which he allowed three runs and struck out five batters. He also allowed a home run that game, his first as a starter and first overall since he allowed two back on April 8.
Trevor Bauer has been spectacular for the Indians recently. His last start was arguably the best of his entire career, a complete game three-hitter against the Tampa Bay Rays. It was just the second complete game of his career and his 10 strikeouts was tied for the second-most in any one start. You can bet Chris Gimenez will be starting at catcher this game, as the Bauer-Gimenez pair has been excellent ever since it began on May 5.
Bauer holds a 2.74 ERA and a 3.07 in 10 starts with Gimenez as his personal catcher.
Tuesday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Corey Kluber (RHP) vs. Matt Wisler (RHP)
Matt Wisler is another young pitcher on the Braves staff, although he has not enjoyed the success of John Gant. In 15 games this season (14 starts), Wisler has a 4.22 ERA and a 4.62 FIP. It should not be difficult for the Indians to lift some balls into the air against Wisler, as he carries just a 37.4 percent ground ball rate while allowing 1.30 home runs per nine innings.
Coming into his last start, Wisler had allowed a home run in three-straight games, but he kept the New York Mets in the yard.
Opposite Wisler will be Corey Kluber, who has looked downright Klubotian in some starts this season, while looking pretty awful in others. Given Trevor Bauer's recent string of solid outings, I would almost say that Kluber is the most unpredictable pitcher on the staff right now. Kluber's last outing was brilliant, a complete game shutout of the Tampa Bay Rays, but just one start prior he allowed five earned runs against the Kansas City Royals in five innings.
Kluber already has four complete games this season, and three games with at least nine strikeouts.
Wednesday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Danny Salazar (RHP) vs. TBD
The Braves do not have a starting pitcher listed yet as the normal starter in this spot, Aaron Blair, was demoted after a string of awful starts.
The Indians will send Danny Salazar to the mound, who has been almost Cy Young-worthy this season. I say "almost" because he has an issue with walks. It was especially apparent in his last start against the Tigers when he lasted just 5.2 innings while issuing five free bases. Even then, he as able to work his out of jams and keep the runs at a reasonable three.
Salazar has issued at least five walks in three games this season, including six free bases back on May 11 against the Houston Astros.
Time constraints make the following series pretty difficult for the Tribe. They will finish up this Braves series on Wednesday with a regular 7:10 p.m. start, then immediately fly to Canada to face the Toronto Blue Jays for another 7:10 p.m. start. Following that, they have an early afternoon game on Friday. Sleep while you can.
The current road trip comes to an end on July 4 when the Indians return to Cleveland to face the Tigers again.
Team in a box
There is no polite way to put this -- the Braves are awful. We know it, they know it, the league knows, it, they are terrible. Atlanta is in the final steps of a rebuild as they gear up for a 2017 run, and as a result, they are a roster comprised of a bunch of young, inexperienced players and veterans that no one else wanted. While that far from guarantees the Indians will sweep them, any team has a pretty good chance at beating the Braves given enough chances.
It's worth noting that they do have a middle-of-the-road pitching staff, instead of a completely terrible one. Most of that comes from starting pitcher Julio Teheran, who is good enough to even out some of the bad of their rotation.
Atlanta Braves roster
- C: AJ Pierzynski
- 1B: Freddie Freeman
- 2B: Jace Peterson
- SS: Erick Aybar
- 3B: Adonis Garcia
- LF: Jeff Francoeur
- CF: Ender Inciarte
- RF: Nick Markakis
- DH: lol jk they make their pitcher hit because strategy
- C: Tyler Flowers
- IF: Emilion Bonifacio
- IF: Chase d'Arnaud
- IF: Brandon Snyder
Reading the Atlanta Braves roster is a treasure trove of "Hey, remember that guy?" If you thought AJ Pierzynski retired or if you thought Jeff Francoeur was just a myth, you're in luck -- they play for the Braves now.
Freddie Freeman, one of the last vestiges of the Braves last competitive team, still mans first base for Atlanta. He leads all position players in fWAR at 1.9 and he has been the team's best hitter with a .282/.368/.493 slash and a team-leading 13 home runs. No one else on the Braves even has five home runs, the next closest being backup catcher Tyler Flowers with four.
Drew Stubbs started the season with Atlanta, but only lasted 20 games before getting the ax. In that time he managed to strike out in 47.6 percent of his at-bats.
Starting pitcher Bud Norris leads all batters with at least 20 PA with a 13.6 percent walk rate. He is a pitcher.
- RHP: Julio Teheran
- RHP: Matt Wisler
- RHP: Aaron Blair
- RHP: Bud Norris
- RHP: John Gant
- LHP: Dario Alvarez
- LHP: Hunter Cervenka
- RHP: Tyrell Jenkins
- RHP: Jim Johnson
- LHP: Matt Marksberry
- RHP: Alexi Ogando
- RHP: Arodys Vizcaino
- RHP: Chris Withrow
Julio Teheran has been one saving grace of the Braves so far this season, with a 2.46 ERA and 3.68 FIP. The Braves are likely to hold onto him until the offseason, at the very least. If they do not deal him at all, having him open a shiny new stadium is not the worst thing in the world.
The second-best starting pitcher with at least 10 starts for the Braves this season has been Matt Wisler with a 4.22 ERA and 4.62 FIP.