The Braves (35-32) will try to solve one of baseball’s hottest pitchers Friday night when they open a three-game series against Sabathia and the Indians (39-26) at Jacobs Field.
The left-hander has lasted nine innings in each of his last two outings, including Sunday against the Cincinnati Reds, when he allowed just three hits in a 1-0 loss in 12 innings.
“It was a tough loss,” Sabathia said. “It’s disappointing that we lost. That’s more important than my own personal numbers.”
Sabathia is 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA in his last six starts since a loss on May 11 against the Oakland Athletics.
Atlanta has never faced Sabathia as it tries to break out of a recent slump. The Braves have lost nine of their last 12 games, including a three-game sweep by the Minnesota Twins this week.
It looked as if Atlanta would avoid the sweep Thursday, but closer Bob Wickman failed to protect a 2-0 lead in the ninth inning when he gave up three runs for his third blown save in 14 opportunities.
The Braves fell to 1-5 in interleague play this season and 13-23 over the last three years.
Atlanta has averaged 2.2 runs in its five interleague losses this year. The Braves scored only five runs in the series against the Twins and were 3-for-16 with runners in scoring position in the three games.
“We’ve got to win. There’s no more ‘we’ll get ‘em tomorrow’ things,” said catcher Brian McCann. “It’s almost the All-Star break, so we’ve got to start playing a little better.”
Cleveland got a strong effort from Jason Stanford, who recorded his second major league win on Thursday in a 3-2 win over the Florida Marlins.
Stanford, who pitched in the majors for the first time since April 2004, lasted six innings and allowed one run while striking out seven to give the Indians back-to-back wins for the first time since they won three straight from May 30-June 1.
Cleveland owns the second-best home record in baseball at 21-8, but the Indians have lost four of their last six games at Jacobs Field.
Buddy Carlyle (1-1, 4.91) will make just his fourth start and fifth appearance this season on Friday for Atlanta. Carlyle was called up to start against the Chicago Cubs on Sunday because of an injury to John Smoltz and allowed four runs and seven hits in 6 1-3 innings of a 5-4 win, but did not factor in the decision.
The right-hander has never faced the Indians.
This is Atlanta’s first visit to Jacobs Field since Game Five of the 1995 World Series, which the Braves won in six games. The Indians won two of three on the road in the lone interleague series between the teams from June 18-20, 2004.