The Braves head to Cleveland for a three-game set against the Indians this weekend, looking to break the slump that saw them drop three straight at home to the Diamondbacks this week. These teams enter play on opposite trajectories, with Cleveland winning three straight and Atlanta losing three straight. On Friday, they turn to Touki Toussaint, who put forth a heroic effort against the Mets in his most recent appearance. Cleveland will counter with a tough assignment for the Braves bats, as Corey Kluber looks to right the ship in what has been a rough start for the two-time Cy Young Award winner.
Touki Toussaint began the regular season in Gwinnett, but was recalled last week as the Braves reshuffled their pitching staff. After Sean Newcomb surrendered four early runs to the Mets on Saturday, Toussaint entered in relief and was dominant. The right-hander pitches six innings, allowing just one unearned run while striking out seven. This not only earned Toussaint the win, it also gave the Atlanta bullpen a much-needed reprieve from the heavy workload they had carried in the early going. Toussaint left to a standing ovation from the Atlanta faithful, which was well-deserved given the inauspicious start from Newcomb that led to an emergency entrance from Touki.
On Friday, Toussaint will receive his first start of 2019. With the recent demotions of Newcomb and Kyle Wright, this is an important start for both Toussaint and the Braves as they look to nail down their preferred starting rotation. Toussaint made five starts a season ago, earning a spot on the postseason roster, so he is certainly prepared for a major league workload, and this start could jumpstart him toward becoming a fixture in the rotation.
Corey Kluber enters his start on Friday with a 6.16 ERA in four starts. The right-hander has allowed 25 hits in 19 innings, which is wildly irregular for one of the better pitchers in baseball, so Atlanta will be tasked with elongating the issues that have plagued Kluber thus far. He is still missing bats, with 21 strikeouts, which suddenly became a problem for the Atlanta offense this week after posting one of the better strikeout rates in baseball prior. This will be one development to monitor tonight, as something has to give for either Kluber or the Atlanta offense.
Cleveland has never seen Toussaint, so that could work to the Braves’ advantage tonight. Kluber has limited exposure to National League teams, but did make one start against Atlanta in 2016. Given all the turnover for the Braves in the time intervening, that start provides little substance now, but Freddie Freeman will at least have some knowledge to share. Of all the Atlanta batters, Josh Donaldson has the most experience versus Kluber, and has some success, going 7-for-19 with a homer.
Game Date/Time: Friday, April 19, 7:10 p.m. ET
Location: Progressive Field, Cleveland, Ohio
TV: Fox Sports Southeast
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM The Fan, Rock 100.5, Braves Radio Network