Division leaders set to meet as Twins visit Braves

A pair of top-line starting pitchers will square off Monday when the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves host the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins in the opening game of a three-game series

The Braves will send Spencer Strider (8-2, 3.93 ERA) against Minnesota’s Sonny Gray (4-1, 2.56) in a duel between two proven right-handers

The Braves are coming off a 4-1 road trip, have won 10 of their last 11 and took the final two games of a three-game series against NL Central-leading Cincinnati. The Twins just won two of three from the host Detroit Tigers over the weekend, including a 6-3 victory in 10 innings on Sunday. Minnesota has won four of its last five

The teams have not met since 2019 when the Braves took two-of-three in Minneapolis

Strider leads the major leagues with 136 strikeouts and is coming off a bounce-back effort at Philadelphia on Tuesday. He limited the Phillies to one run over six innings after having allowed 13 runs over nine combined innings in his two previous starts. Strider fanned nine on Tuesday and became the second pitcher since 1901 to have 300 strikeouts in his first 35 starts, joining Doc Gooden.

Strider has never faced the Twins

Gray did not factor in the decision in his most recent start on Wednesday against the Boston Red Sox, a game the Twins won 5-4 on a 10th-inning walk-off single by Kyle Farmer. Gray pitched five innings and allowed three runs on six hits, with two walks and five strikeouts

Gray has made five career starts against the Braves, going 0-2 with a 3.23 ERA. He last faced Atlanta on Aug. 10, 2021, while pitching for Cincinnati

Both teams have been hitting the ball well.

Atlanta first baseman Matt Olson hit his 25th homer on Sunday, a decisive three-run shot, and has seven bombs in his last nine games. Five of his last six hits have left the ballpark, and he is tied with Shohei Ohtani for tops in the majors.

Over the last 11 games, the Braves have scored 89 runs on 125 hits with 30 home runs and 14 stolen bases. Atlanta has a six-game lead over Miami in the NL East

“I think we’re just taking those next steps,” Olson said. “We’re coming together one through nine (in the order). We’re swinging it well, guys are throwing well. Hopefully we can keep rising as the season goes along.”

One of Minnesota’s hottest hitters has been third baseman Royce Lewis. He was 3-for-4 on Sunday, drove in what turned out to be the game-winning run in the 10th inning and extended his hitting streak to a career-best seven games.

During the streak, Lewis is batting .462 (12-for-26) with a double, two homers and five RBIs. He has reached base safely in a career-best 10 straight.

“Just the good routine we have with Pop (hitting coach David Popkins) and staying on top of it,” Lewis said. “Every day is a grind, a different pitcher, and we’re making the right adjustments.”

–Field Level Media

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