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Preview: Blue Jays at Braves

GAME: Toronto Blue Jays (83-62) at Atlanta Braves (57-89)
DATE/TIME: Thursday, September 17 – 7:10 PM EST
WHERE: Turner Field, Atlanta, Georgia
LINE: N/A TOTAL: N/A

Getting Edwin Encarnacion back into the Toronto Blue Jays lineup helped squelch a brief two-game losing streak on Wednesday, putting the American League East leaders in position to win another series as they end a three-game set Thursday at the Atlanta Braves. Encarnacion pounded out three hits, walked twice and scored a run in his return from an injured middle finger on his left hand as the Blue Jays won 9-1, one night after being held to five hits.

Encarnacion reached base for a 43rd consecutive game, one off the longest streak in the AL since 2010 (Miguel Cabrera, 44, 2013). More importantly, his presence in the lineup helped ignite Toronto’s powerful offense, which has scored nine runs or more in 31 games this season. Toronto, which maintains a three-game lead on the New York Yankees in the AL East, aims for its seventh series win in its past nine series. The Braves fell to 15-47 since they sat at 42-42 on July 7, but right fielder Nick Markakis recorded his 50th multi-hit game of the season to raise his average to .298.

TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, SportsNet (Toronto), SportSouth (Atlanta)

PITCHING MATCHUP: Blue Jays RH Marco Estrada (12-8, 3.31 ERA) vs. Braves RH Matt Wisler (5-7, 5.60)

Estrada shook off a rough start to his first season in Toronto and has been outstanding since June 1, going 11-5 with a 3.11 ERA and a .204 opponents’ batting average in his past 19 starts. He surrendered three homers in giving up four runs on six hits in five innings of a no-decision Saturday against the Yankees, snapping a streak of eight consecutive outings with three or fewer earned runs allowed. Estrada pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief April 19 against the Braves and is 3-1 with a 3.69 ERA in 10 career appearances against Atlanta.

Wisler lost his fifth start in a row on Friday, falling to the Mets, but the 23-year-old gave up only two runs on seven hits with six strikeouts in six innings. The rookie had lasted just 1 2/3 innings in his previous start Sept. 3 at Washington, allowing seven runs for the second time in three starts, but he pitched two scoreless innings of relief three days later and allowed the go-ahead run on a balk against New York. Wisler has surrendered nine homers in 157 at-bats against left-handers, which are hitting .350 against him.

WALK-OFFS

1. Atlanta SS Andrelton Simmons committed two errors Wednesday, after recording just four in his first 131 games this season. He also struck out three times, after starting the game with 40 strikeouts on the season.

2. Toronto CF Ben Revere snapped an 0-for-8 skid with two hits, and is batting .396 in his past 17 games.

3. Braves C Christian Bethancourt recorded his second three-hit game in the past five contests and is batting .412 in that stretch.

PREDICTION: Blue Jays 5, Braves 2