Cleveland was nearly left for dead in early August after losing six straight games, including a four-game sweep at the hands of the Tigers that appeared to take the drama out of the American League Central race. But with victories in five of six against the Angels and Twins last week, the Indians have reasserted themselves as Wild Card contenders ahead of a daunting road trip in which they will face two of baseball's best teams.
Before the Indians head to Detroit looking for revenge in the final days of August, they must navigate a three-game set this week in Atlanta, where the Braves have been nearly unbeatable, no matter how banged up their star players have been.
Atlanta's .710 home winning percentage (44-18) this season is the highest in baseball, but since right fielder Jason Heyward was lost for what could be the rest of the regular season with a broken jaw, the Braves simply have not looked like the same team that averaged nearly six runs per game amid a 14-game unbeaten streak that began just after the All-Star break.
Both teams will trot out promising rookie starters in the series opener Tuesday night. Left-hander Alex Wood's 1.11 ERA in August is the fifth-lowest among starters with at least 20 innings pitched this month, and the Braves have won three of his last four starts, all of which have been tightly contested pitchers' duels.
"I thought I made some pitches when I needed to; that's all you can ask," Wood said Wednesday after scattering six hits over six innings in the Braves' 4-1 extra-innings win over the Mets. "These kinds of days are the ones that test you, and you kind of show your true colors if you battle through when you don't really have that great of stuff."
Cleveland rookie Danny Salazar will make his first Interleague start having allowed three hits or fewer in three of his first four career starts. Dating back to 1921, the rookie's 29 strikeouts are the second-most by an Indians pitcher in his first four career games, trailing only Herb Score's 40 in 1955.
"He threw the ball really well," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Salazar after the righty struck out seven and allowed only one run in 5 1/3 innings last Tuesday. "He gave up a leadoff homer again, but other than that, he was really good."
Indians: Tomlin completes Tommy John comeback
Right-hander Josh Tomlin was activated from the 60-day disabled list and assigned to Triple-A Columbus on Sunday, marking the completion of his comeback from Tommy John surgery, which he had Aug. 22 of last year. Tomlin will join Columbus as a starter and could be called up to the Majors when active rosters expand to a maximum of 40 players Sept. 1.
• Utilityman Ryan Raburn remained out of the starting lineup Sunday for the sixth consecutive game with right calf and left foot discomfort. Raburn is hoping to return to action Tuesday or Wednesday against one of Atlanta's left-handed starters.
• Two players broke out of frustrating slumps amid Saturday night's offensive outburst, as Michael Brantley ended an 0-for-22 slide with a run-scoring single to left, and Jason Kipnis erased an 0-for-19 drought with a single and a two-run home run in the Tribe's 7-2 win over Minnesota. Kipnis' RBI single Sunday gave him 21 RBIs against the Twins this season, the most by any Major League player against one opponent, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Braves: Johnson scratched with turf toe
Third baseman Chris Johnson was scratched from the lineup roughly 90 minutes before Sunday's series finale with turf toe. Johnson hit the first-base bag awkwardly after beating out an infield single in Saturday night's game, but he was available to pinch-hit Sunday.
"I jammed it and bent it back," Johnson said Sunday. "Then I kept playing through the game. I took my shoe off, and it swelled up after the game. I came in today, and it was pretty swollen."
• Jordan Schafer led off Sunday's 5-2 win over the Cardinals with a triple and added an RBI ground-rule double in the second inning. The hot start marked a return to the promise Schafer showed in the leadoff role before fouling a ball off his right foot June 27, which left to a stress fracture that kept him off the field for over a month.
In the 19 starts before his extended disabled list stint, Schafer hit .319 and compiled a .424 on-base percentage from the leadoff spot. His two hits Sunday were his first in five games as the leadoff man since being activated Aug. 11.
• The Indians are the only team currently above .500 remaining on the Braves' schedule this season.
• The Braves avoided being swept for just the third time this season with Sunday's win.
• Only three members of Atlanta's starting lineup Sunday had made more than 34 starts this year: Justin Upton, Freddie Freeman and Andrelton Simmons.
Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.