DETROIT – The Atlanta Braves own the best record in the major leagues despite a taxing schedule that has seem them play 13 of their first 21 games away from home.
The Braves look to continue their success when they wrap up a 10-game road trip with a three-game interleague series against the Detroit Tigers on Friday. A rare blown save by closer Craig Kimbrel on Wednesday prevented Atlanta from completing a three-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies.
Detroit has dropped five of six games while struggling to get its offense untracked. The Tigers have been limited to three runs or fewer in six of their last seven even though Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera are the first teammates to reach 20 RBIs.
Cabrera, who is third in the American League with a .361 average, is riding a nine-game hitting streak. Detroit is hoping the signing of former closer Jose Valverde will stabilize the back end of its bullpen.
TV: 7:08 p.m. ET, Fox Sports South (Atlanta), Fox Sports Detroit
PITCHING MATCHUP: Braves LH Paul Maholm (3-1, 1.03 ERA) vs. RH Anibal Sanchez (2-1, 1.75)
It took four starts before Maholm surrendered his first run - and suffered his first loss. He had started the season with 25 1/3 scoreless innings before giving up three runs in the sixth inning of a 3-1 loss at Pittsburgh on Saturday. Maholm has given up only 15 hits total and nine in his last three outings. Maholm has made three starts against Detroit, going 0-1 with a 2.60 ERA. Jhonny Peralta is 4-for-9 against him, but Maholm has limited Fielder to 7-for-51 with 15 strikeouts.
Sanchez is also coming off his worst outing, allowing three runs on 11 hits - one more hit than he permitted in his first three starts combined - in 6 2/3 innings of an 8-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Friday. He's had his issues against Atlanta dating to his days with the Marlins, compiling a 4-11 record and 5.42 ERA in 17 starts against the Braves. Sanchez has lost four straight starts to Atlanta over the past two seasons, lasting beyond five innings only once.
1. Atlanta's Justin Upton, who leads the majors with 11 homers, is 4-for-13 with one homer against Sanchez.
2. The Tigers have already played four extra-inning games, losing three.
3. Braves 1B/3B Chris Johnson leads the majors with a .397 batting average.