The Atlanta Braves are in cruise control. On Thursday they try to complete a three-game sweep of the Cleveland Indians at Turner Field.
Atlanta is 13 games up on the Washington Nationals in the National League East and barring an absolute collapse, is all but assured its third trip to the postseason in the last four years.
The Braves, though, needed some late heroics on Wednesday, as Chris Johnson singled home Jordan Schafer in the ninth inning to lift them to a 3-2 win.
Schafer singled then stole second with one out in the final frame. After Justin Upton flew out to center, reliever Joe Smith (5-2) intentionally walked Freddie Freeman to get to Johnson, who ripped a line drive to left field.
The speedy Schafer raced around third and slid across the plate just ahead of Michael Brantley's throw.
"Anytime someone gets walked to get to you, although obviously it is not personal with Freddie Freeman in front of me and a base open, you want to try and come up big. That is what I did," Johnson said.
Schafer went 3-for-4 with two RBI and two stolen bases, and Brian McCann had two hits and a run scored for the NL East leaders, winners in three straight.
Craig Kimbrel (3-2) earned the win with a perfect ninth inning. Starter Paul Maholm gave up one run, which came on a homer to Mike Aviles, and six hits over six innings.
Aviles drove in both runs for the Indians, who are 5 1/2 games back of the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central, but will face them in a series this coming weekend.
"This was not the easiest of losses. It was a well-pitched game. They had a couple of really nice placed hits, but when you get in situations like that against a good team it is always hard to score runs," Aviles said. "We just have to find a way to score runs, it is the only way you're going to win."
Heading to the hill for the Braves on Thursday will be righty Kris Medlen, who is 10-12 with a 3.74 ERA. Medlen lost his second straight start on Friday in St. Louis, as the Cardinals reached him for three runs and six hits in six innings.
"I thought I was cruising pretty good," Medlen said Friday. "I hadn't had to battle yet but I wasn't given the opportunity, so I guess I'm voicing the fact that I didn't appreciate that."
Medlen, who has since apologized to manager Fredi Gonzalez, has never faced the Indians, who will counter him with right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez.
Jimenez lost for the third time in four starts on Friday, but pitched well against Minnesota, as he allowed two runs and struck out 10 in six innings to fall to 9-8 to go along with a 3.95 ERA.
"I don't know if he got mad, but he reared back and competed and let it go," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. "I thought (Friday) was the best stuff he had all year. He was really good."
Jimenez has faced the Braves eight times and is 3-4 with a 3.78 ERA.
Atlanta took two of three from the Indians the last time these teams squared off back in 2007.