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CLE@LAA: Masterson K's seven in 6 2/3 for 14th win

The Indians still have a little more than a month to catch the first-place Tigers in the American League Central standings. The next week and a half could go a long way, though, in determining if they have a chance.

Including Tuesday night's 2-0 loss to the Braves at Turner Field, Cleveland is in the midst of a nine-game stretch against Atlanta, Detroit and Baltimore -- two division leaders and the other (the Orioles) contending for the same Wild Card spots the Indians are pursuing.

So just how crucial will the string of games against tough opponents be for Cleveland?

"Honestly? I think it's very important," Tribe outfielder Michael Bourn said. "It'll tell what kind of team we have. We're playing some tough teams. We're playing some teams that are fighting for the playoffs. It's a test. You always go through that test throughout a year. ... You have to face those teams, take them on and try to beat them. None of these teams are going to be easy."

The Indians saw just how difficult it will be in the opener of a three-game set against the Braves, who hold a comfortable 13-game lead in the National League East. The Indians trail the Tigers by 5 1/2 games in the division and are three behind the A's for the second Wild Card spot.

In Cleveland's way on Wednesday night will be Atlanta left-hander Paul Maholm, who will oppose Justin Masterson.

Maholm seeks his sixth win this season at Turner Field, where he owns a 1.93 ERA as opposed to his 6.08 ERA on the road. It will be his second start since coming off a month-long stint on the disabled list with a bruised throwing hand. He surrendered just one run through four innings against the Cardinals last Thursday, but a walk to Pete Kozma sparked a three-run fifth for St. Louis.

"I can't go out there and blow a 95-mph fastball by somebody," Maholm said after his most recent start. "But if my mechanics are good and I'm able to mix four pitches in and out, I'm going to take my chances."

Indians: Masterson seeks 15th win
At the very least, Masterson has given the Indians a chance when he steps on the mound. The 28-year-old right-hander has gone at least 6 2/3 innings in seven of his last eight starts, going 4-2 with a 2.85 ERA in those outings.

"He expects it out of himself," manager Terry Francona said. "I think he knows we expect it, and I think he enjoys answering."

Masterson will take the mound six days after earning his team-leading 14th win -- allowing just one run on five hits and five walks in 6 2/3 innings against the Angels. He also struck out seven.

• Ryan Raburn said a stint on the disabled list is possible due to right calf and left heel soreness, but his participation in drills and batting practice before Tuesday's game left Francona optimistic the Indians utility man could avoid having to do so.

"He did well today," Francona said of Raburn, who was out of the lineup for the 14th time in the last 17 games. "I'm thinking that he's probably available. We wanted it -- when we got him available -- we wanted to make sure that we could hit him and leave him in to play or run. I think we're there, but we'll watch him."

Braves: Uggla likely to return Wednesday
After homering in his second rehab start on Tuesday, second baseman Dan Uggla will likely rejoin the Braves on Wednesday when he's eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list after recovering from LASIK surgery.

Uggla, who went 2-for-4 for Triple-A Gwinnett, began his rehab stint going hitless in his first five at-bats before hitting the home run and a single on Tuesday.

"Tomorrow's when he's eligible to come off, so we'll see how he feels like he needs another game or if he doesn't," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "It's probably about [95 percent] that he'll be here tomorrow."

• Jason Heyward was back with his teammates on Tuesday for the first time since sustaining a fractured jaw when he was hit by a fastball from Mets left-hander Jon Niese last Wednesday. Happy to be in the clubhouse again, Heyward said he hopes to be ready for the playoffs but admitted the uncertainty of his situation.

"I don't have a timetable for you," Heyward said. "I don't know if it's going to be sooner. I don't know if it's going to be later. I don't know how long it's going to take to heal. But I know as soon as possible, I'd like to be playing baseball."

Worth noting
• The Indians are 9-6 Interleague Play this season, going just 3-5 on the road.

• Cleveland shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera extended his hitting streak to eight games with a 3-for-4 performance on Tuesday.

• Along having the best record in baseball at 79-52, the Braves lead the Majors with a 45-18 mark at home. Comments