Updated: 9:36 p.m. Saturday, July 28, 2012 | Posted: 9:35 p.m. Saturday, July 28, 2012
Minor pitches gem, Braves beat Phillies
By David O'Brien
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
If Mike Minor were still pitching as he did in April and May, the Braves might be trying to trade for two starters instead of one.
But he's not. The young left-hander has been a far better and more consistent pitcher the past two months, including Saturday night when Minor limited the Phillies to four hits and one run with nine strikeouts in eight innings of a 2-1 Braves win at Turner Field.
In front of a crowd of 39,886, the Braves scored two runs in the first three innings and held on to beat the Phillies for the fifth consecutive time and the sixth in eight games between the teams this season.
Minor (6-7) retired the last 13 batters he faced and 14 of 15 after Chase Utley's home run in the fourth inning cut the lead to 2-1.
Braves closer Craig Kimbrel pitched a perfect ninth inning with two strikeouts for his 30th save.
Minor is 4-3 with a 3.27 ERA in nine starts during June and July, after going 2-4 with a 6.98 ERA in 10 April-May starts. He has allowed only six earned runs in 27 1/3 innings in his past four starts, posting a 1.98 ERA in that stretch while allowing two earned runs or fewer in each game.
The Braves, winners of 14 of their past 19 games and seven of their past nine at home, needed a strong performance from Minor because Joe Blanton (8-9) turned in a similar outing for the last-place Phillies.
Blanton allowed four hits and two runs in seven innings, with one walk and seven strikeouts. He retired 14 of the last 15 he faced, the only exception coming when Brian McCann reached on an error by first baseman Ryan Howard in the seventh inning.
McCann didn't homer against the Phillies, the first time that's happened all season. He homered in six consecutive games against them before Tuesday, the first player to hit a home run in as many games in a row against Philadelphia.
The Braves snapped an eight-game losing skid against the Phillies in their second game against them this season and have won six of seven games between the teams since.
The five-time defending National League East-champion Phillies are 45-56 and fell to 15 games behind first-place Washington, pending the outcome of the Nationals' game against Milwaukee.
The second-place Braves (56-44) started the day four games behind Washington, and the win moved the Braves to a season-high 12 games over .500.
The Braves took a 1-0 lead in the first inning after back-to-back one-out singles by Martin Prado and Jason Heyward and a sacrifice fly by Chipper Jones. With two on and two out, McCann flied out to the center-field warning track, coming within five feet of homering for the seventh consecutive game against Philadelphia.
The Braves pushed their lead to 2-0 in the third after Bourn reached on a leadoff single, advanced on a ground out and scored from second on Heyward's ground-ball single that wasn't fielded cleanly by second baseman Utley beyond the back edge of the infield.
The Braves haven’t been able to acquire the ace they might have wanted for the top of their rotation, but they secured the depth they needed Monday with the signing of free agent right-hander Gavin Floyd.
One week after the Braves were eliminated by the Dodgers in a four-game division series, Braves general manager Frank Wren met with the team’s beat writers and discussed the 2013 season and the team’s needs going into the offseason.