Braves and Guardians set to battle for bragging rights as the best team in baseball

The Atlanta Braves are red-hot heading into a weekend series in which they will host the Cleveland Guardians who also find themselves atop the MLB standings.

Texas Rangers v Atlanta Braves
Texas Rangers v Atlanta Braves / Todd Kirkland/GettyImages

The Atlanta Braves are fresh off a sweep of the Miami Marlins and are winners of 9 of their last 10 contests. They head into the weekend hoping to cap off their homestand with a big series win as the Cleveland Guardians come to town for three games.

Cleveland also sits at the top of the MLB standings with an overall record of 18-7 so this series will be no easy task for Atlanta. Luckily, the Braves are returning All-Star second baseman Ozzie Albies from the IL and become that much stronger.

3 things to watch for as Braves and Guardians battle it out

Matt Olson hopes to end his dry spell

After leading all of Major League Baseball in home runs and runs batted in a season ago, Matt Olson has had quite the slow start. He just recently ended the longest hitless streak of his career and now it feels like it is time for his fortunes to turn around.

Watching Olson as of late, he is still missing pitches he normally drives in the gap or even out of the yard but his swing looks that much closer to breaking into a hot streak.

He did break a seven-game hitless streak against the Marlins so hopefully, his bat is starting to come to life. Through the first 23 games of this season, he's slashing .216/.327/.432 with a .759 OPS and .271 BABIP.

If you compare that to last season when Matt had a line of .267/.377/.556 with a .933 OPS and .391 BABIP through 23 games in 2023. His strikeouts are down this season as he had 38 last year compared to 27 in 2024. It seems like Olson is dealing with some bad luck as indicated by his BABIP. That is likely to change very soon so don't worry too much about his struggles at the plate right now.

Marcell Ozuna and Travis d'Arnaud leading the way offensively for Braves

Most people expect Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies, Austin Riley, and Matt Olson to carry the offensive load for the Braves, even though we know 1-9 in Atlanta's lineup is capable of doing damage. These four individuals seem to typically be the top contributors. However, 2024 has been a little different.

Marcell Ozuna is leading the team in batting average, home runs, and RBI entering Friday. Ozuna also leads MLB in slugging percentage and RBI. He trails Mookie Betts for the best OPS in the league and Mike Trout for the most home runs in baseball. He has a chance to continue to prove he is for real this season against an impressive American League opponent.

Travis d'Arnuad has shown a great deal of power at the plate lately after a slow start to the season. TDA took over the reins as the primary catcher after Sean Murphy went down with an injury. Something seemed to click with him at the plate once the Rangers came to town.

Travis had a game where he homered three times and he was practically unstoppable during Atlanta's series with the 2023 World Champions. His legend continues to grow as he wins over Braves fans more each and every day.

Once the top of the order starts swinging the bats to their full potential with Travis and Marcell maintaining their hot streaks, we could witness more record-breaking moments for the Atlanta offense.

Bryce Elder to show his season debut for the Braves wasn't a fluke

Ever since losing Spencer Strider to a season-ending injury, the Braves have been looking to fill a gap in their starting rotation. Fried, Sale, Morton, and Lopez have all pitched well enough to put the Braves in a position to win games. However, the fifth rotation spot has been up in the air after mixed results from Darius Vines and Allan Winans.

Bryce Elder, who was an All-Star last season, shined in his 2024 season debut against the Marlins. He tossed 6.2 innings and did not allow any runs to score. He didn't issue any free passes and scattered eight hits through his outing. The key for Elder is to throw strikes and let his defense make plays.

Hopefully, Elder's outing against Miami will be a confidence boost heading into his next start and allow him to prove to Brian Snitker that he belongs in the starting rotation for good. However, the task at hand will be much more challenging this time around as the Guardians have scored 128 runs this season, only 9 less than the Braves so far.

It should be a great series between two of baseball's best teams and the perfect ending to what has been an exciting homestand.

Braves vs. Guardians probable starting pitchers

Game 1: Logan Allen (3-0, 5.06 ERA) vs. Chris Sale (2-1, 4.38 ERA), April 26th, 7:20 p.m. EST

Game 2: Tanner Bibee (2-0, 4.44 ERA) vs. Charlie Morton (2-0, 4.70 ERA), April 27th, 7:20 p.m. EST

Game 3: Ben Lively (0-1, 2.38 ERA) vs. Bryce Elder (1-0, 0.00 ERA), April 28th, 1:35 p.m. EST

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