Joel De La Cruz felt like he belonged as he made his major league debut for Atlanta.
That was because he had been in the majors before, though only as an observer.
De La Cruz allowed three runs in six innings as the Braves fell to the streaking Cleveland Indians 3-0 on Wednesday night.
De La Cruz (0-1) was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett before the game. He didn’t appear in a game in his earlier short stints in Atlanta in April and May.
“Even though I haven’t had the experience the previous times I’ve been called up, I had the confidence from being called up multiple times so I knew that they believed in me,” De La Cruz, from the Dominican Republic, said through a translator. “That helped.”
The Braves signed De La Cruz, 27, as a minor league free agent after he played in the Yankees’ organization in 2015.
Danny Salazar threw seven innings and Lonnie Chisenhall hit his second homer of the series as Cleveland stretched the majors’ longest winning streak this season to 12 games.
Cleveland swept its fourth straight series.
Salazar (10-3) allowed five hits with no walks and eight strikeouts. He lowered the AL’s second-best ERA to 2.22.
Braves interim manager Brian Snitker said Salazar was “Just like advertised. He was real tough.”
Jason Kipnis broke a scoreless tie with a two-run single off De La Cruz in the fifth.
Snitker said De La Cruz was even better than he remembered from their time together at Triple-A and likely will stick in the rotation for another start.
“He was aggressive, used his sinker,” Snitker said. “I thought he was really good.”
Indians closer Cody Allen gave up a leadoff single to Nick Markakis in the ninth and walked Erick Aybar with two outs. Allen ended the game on Emilio Bonifacio’s grounder to second for his 16th save.
Atlanta’s Jace Peterson had two doubles to extend his hitting streak to a career-best 10 games.
Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte made a leaping catch of Mike Napoli’s drive at the wall in the seventh.
BLAME THE BAT
Right-hander Brian Shaw struck out Freddie Freeman to close the eighth with runners on first and second. It was the third strikeout of the game for Freeman, who shattered his bat as he slammed it to the ground in frustration. Freeman also bounced his helmet off ground.
Braves batters were 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position, continuing their season-long struggles.
De La Cruz singled in his first at-bat in the third inning for his first major league hit. The ball was tossed into the Braves’ dugout on the first-base line to be saved. With De La Cruz standing nearby on first base, a laughing Aybar pretended to throw the ball over the dugout roof into the stands.
The Indians’ first glimpse of De La Cruz came a day before the game. Manager Terry Francona said he saw the right-hander after De La Cruz, carrying Braves luggage, checked in at the Indians’ hotel on Wednesday night.
Asked if he knew anything about De La Cruz, Francona said “Well, I rode the elevator with him last night. I was going to my room and I saw this kid with a bag. I said, ‘You must be De La Cruz.’ He laughed. We haven’t seen him pitch. But I’ve shaken his hand.”
Indians: C Roberto Perez (broken right thumb) is moving closer to game action. Francona said Perez might play as a DH in a minor league rehab game as soon as this weekend. Perez required surgery and has been out since May 1.
Indians: RHP Carlos Carrasco (3-2, 2.73) will make his 10th start of the season as Cleveland opens a series at Toronto on Thursday night.
Braves: RHP Mike Foltynewicz (sore right elbow) will come off the 15-day DL to start in Thursday night’s series opener against Miami instead of making a second rehab start with Triple-A Gwinnett. RHP Julio Teheran’s scheduled start was pushed back one day to Friday to give him extra day’s rest.