Twins-Braves Preview


A favorable schedule has helped the Atlanta Braves put together another strong stretch, and it may not end any time soon.

Evan Gattis is making his own contributions.

The Braves may opt to put Gattis in the lineup as they try to sweep their second consecutive series against a last-place opponent Wednesday, when they face the spiraling Minnesota Twins.

Atlanta (27-18) is atop the NL East, and the team's schedule is giving it a chance to stay there.

The Braves are in the midst of a 13-game stretch against teams with losing records, and three of those four opponents occupy the basement in their respective divisions.

Coming off a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta continued its momentum by beating Minnesota 5-1 on Monday, and Freddie Freeman's two-out, RBI single in the 10th proved to be the difference in Tuesday's 5-4 win.

After this series, the Braves are scheduled to face the New York Mets for three games before facing Toronto for four.

Getting Gattis to the plate more often may also keep Atlanta rolling.

The 26-year-old rookie is hitting .254 with nine homers and 23 RBIs in 36 games, spending time at catcher, first base and left field.

He's 4 for 6 with three homers, a double and six RBIs as a pinch-hitter. Two of those homers have come in the past four days, including a solo shot in the ninth Tuesday.

"It's awesome to see," starter Tim Hudson said. "People around the league are scratching their heads, trying to figure out how to make sure he doesn't put the ball in the seats."

The Braves tend to do that with regularity - they rank among the league leaders with 58 homers - and Paul Maholm (5-4, 3.83 ERA) is again hoping to be a beneficiary.

The left-hander has won all of his starts when he's been backed by at least two runs, compiling a 1.13 ERA. He owns a 7.77 ERA while dropping the other four games, during which he's received one or no supporting runs.

Maholm got plenty of help in Friday's 8-5 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. He allowed four runs - two earned - in six innings, but left with the lead after Justin Upton hit a grand slam in the bottom of the frame.

He's 0-1 while surrendering 11 runs in 12 innings over two starts versus the Twins, whom he has not faced since 2009 with Pittsburgh.

The Twins have lost seven games in a row for the first time since an 11-game slide from Sept. 9-21, 2011.

The staff has been a major problem during the current skid, compiling a 5.94 ERA - 7.11 from the rotation.

Giving the ball to Vance Worley (1-4, 6.20) may not solve those issues since he's 0-1 with a 5.82 ERA in four starts on the road.

The right-hander's last two outings were at home, and his latest was perhaps his best performance of the season. His only blemish in six innings was an unearned run in the first, and he did not get a decision in Friday's 3-2 loss to Boston.

Worley has no record while throwing seven shutout innings over three appearances in Atlanta. He tossed five scoreless frames in a 7-0 win in his only start there with Philadelphia on Oct. 2, 2010.

Worley, though, has struggled versus Freeman and Dan Uggla.

Freeman is 3 for 7 with a pair of doubles off him, while Uggla is 4 for 9 with two homers.

Freeman enters this meeting 8 for 22 (.364) with three doubles and seven RBIs over his last six games.