Jason Kipnis soured Joel De La Cruz's Major League debut with a two-out, two-run single in the fifth and Danny Salazar enhanced his All-Star candidacy as the Indians extended their winning streak to 12 games with Wednesday night's 3-0 victory over the Braves at Turner Field.
Salazar won his sixth straight start and lowered his ERA to 2.22 with seven scoreless innings. Kipnis extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a two-run single that followedRajai Davis' two-out single. Lonnie Chisenhall's two-out solo homer in the sixth inning provided some insurance for the Indians, who are one win shy of matching the franchise-best 13-game win streak recorded in both 1942 and '51.
"You try not to think about it too much and just play hard every day," Chisenhall said. "With the guys running out there who are on the mound for us, it's not too difficult on the offense, and we're getting some timely hits when we need them. It's a fun part of the summer where we're able to try to separate ourselves."
The Braves have lost six of eight since recording a season-best six-game winning streak. They received more than they could have expected from De La Cruz, who allowed three earned runs over six innings. The 27-year-old right-hander was promoted from Triple-A Gwinnett to fill the rotation spot vacated when Aaron Blair was optioned to Gwinnett.
"I am very thankful to the Braves for giving me this opportunity," De La Cruz said through an interpreter. "I obviously enjoyed it. I would have loved for the team to get a win, but I understand that's how things go."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Lonnie looms large: With his solo home run on Wednesday, Chisenhall has now homered three times in the past four games. All five of his homers this year have come since May 31. The 27-year-old is batting .322 (29-for-90) with 16 RBIs during that span. The right fielder's hot hitting has played an influential role in the Indians' winning streak, during which he's batted .359 (14-for-39).
"He's certainly been productive, and we've seen him where he can really get hot," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "His average is probably hovering around .300 now, and he's shown some pop with a couple of home runs. When we can get production all the way through the order, that certainly helps the cause."
Leaving them stranded:Jace Peterson recorded a pair of leadoff doubles off Salazar, who entered the game having limited left-handed hitters to three hits in 26 at-bats in June. But Peterson was retired when he tried to score on Ender Inciarte's grounder to third in the first inning and he was left stranded when Salazar concluded the sixth with consecutive strikeouts of Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis. Freeman shattered his bat against the ground when Bryan Shaw struck him out with two on to end the eighth.
"That's a readable ball, where I think [Peterson] got caught out in no-man's land," Braves manager Brian Snitker said in reference to the first inning. "It's just a ball you don't try to score on with nobody out."
Ramirez shows range: With one out and a runner on first in the bottom of the fifth, De La Cruz pushed a sacrifice bunt toward the left side of the pitcher's mound, hoping to advanceEmilio Bonifacio to second. Jose Ramirez snuffed the play out, though, and threw across his body to second base to initiate an inning-ending double play. The utility man has proven himself at third base, committing zero errors in 63 chances this year.
"Jose, with a really heads-up play to go to second, kind of pulled the throw a little bit," Francona said. "But [Francisco Lindor] stayed on the bag, picked it and then threw to first. It ended the inning quick."
Solid debut: De La Cruz had been promoted to the Major Leagues three previous times (twice this season) but had not made an appearance. The Minor League journeyman notched his first big league hit with a third-inning single, and he held the Indians scoreless through the first four innings. But his good fortune expired when Davis doubled and Kipnis followed with his sharp two-run single that eluded a diving Adonis Garcia at third base.
"I liked what I saw," Snitker said. "He was aggressive and used his sinker. The two-run single was right off Adonis' glove. That's inches away from not giving that up. I thought he was really good, probably better than I saw him when I had him in Gwinnett earlier this year."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Before claiming this three-game series sweep, the Indians had lost seven of the nine games played in Atlanta dating back to the 1995 World Series.
WHAT'S NEXT Indians: Cleveland will conclude its 10-day, 10-game road trip in Toronto this weekend, starting with Thursday's series opener. Carlos Carrasco will take the mound for the Tribe, looking to record his fourth straight quality start. The right-hander is 1-1 with an 8.62 ERA in four games (three starts) against Toronto. First pitch is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. ET.
Braves: Atlanta will open a four-game home series against Miami on Thursday at 7:10 p.m. ET. Mike Foltynewicz will return from the disabled list to make his first start since May 30. The Braves and Marlins will play three games at Turner Field and then play Sunday night's series finale at Fort Bragg (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).