For parts of the past three seasons, the Braves loved the flashes they saw from left-hander Mike Minor, they just wanted consistency.
On a rainy Thursday night, they got a little of both. Minor pitched his fifth straight start allowing two or fewer earned runs but a thunderstorm cut short his night after only 3 2/3 innings in a 6-1 win over the Marlins.
“I think you’re looking at a kid who’s kind of realized what he’s capable of doing and he’s going out and executing,” said Chipper Jones, who helped stake Minor to an early lead with a two-run double in the first inning. “I thought he was not as sharp as he has been the last couple of starts, but was still good enough to pitch that lineup well.”
Between Minor’s work and two-run doubles by Jones and Freddie Freeman, the Braves made Wednesday night’s loss to the Marlins look like an anomaly.
The 6-1 win made the Braves 6-1 on this homestand, and they are looking for more of the same with the Astros coming in town for the weekend. The Astros (35-71) have the worst record in baseball. Jones has been calling for an 8-2 homestand.
“I didn’t want to go any worse than 8-2, and I said 9-1 would be really, really good,” said Jones, who was 2-for-4 with two RBIs. “Actually I’d like 10-0, but we can’t be perfect every day…The Astros have been playing a little better so. I don’t know what the pitching matchups are, but certainly I expect us to win the series.”
It’ll start with Tim Hudson taking on Armando Galarraga on Friday, followed by Paul Maholm’s debut as a Brave against Lucas Harrell on Saturday.
The one loss on this homestand Wednesday cost the Braves a chance to make up ground on the Nationals, who lost on Wednesday but won Thursday and remain 2 ½ games up in the NL East.
Thunder, lightning and a fourth inning downpour forced Minor to leave Thursday’s game after only 55 pitches. A 42-minute delay proved a shame for Minor, who opened August the same way he pitched in July, with solid work.
Minor allowed only two hits, walked two and struck out one but could not qualify for the win since he didn’t pitch the requisite five innings in a nine-inning game. It was the first time he failed to go six or more innings since June 30 against Washington. He is 2-1 since then with a 1.74 ERA.
“It’s unfortunate but as long as we got the win,” Minor said. “The guys in the bullpen picked me up.”
Rather than keeping Minor warm by throwing indoors during the delay, manager Fredi Gonzalez sent reliever Cristhian Martinez back out to pitch in the fourth. He pitched three innings allowing only one run.
“It’s a situation where you always try to do the best for the young man,” Gonzalez said. “And we didn’t think running him back out there was prudent.”
The Braves bullpen has had to cover 19 innings in the past five games, which included two rain delays and the first start of the season for converted reliever Kris Medlen. In that time, Braves relievers allowed only two runs, one of which was earned, since Minor made his previous start Saturday with eight innings against the Phillies.
“It’s unbelievable,” Gonzalez said of the bullpen. “They’re running on fumes right now. We need to get a couple starters to go (deep) and Mother Nature to cooperate a little bit. Tip your hat off to those guys because they did a terrific job holding the Marlins team in check when we needed them to.”
Marlins right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, 22, was making his second start since coming from the Dodgers in the trade for Hanley Ramirez. He gave up six runs on eight hits in two innings and left before the rain even came into play.
Reed Johnson and Jason Heyward each reached base twice against him and scored twice. Dan Uggla singled in a run in an eight-pitch at-bat, to give him RBIs in four of his past five games.
“(Eovaldi) wasn’t getting many of his secondary pitches over,” Jones said. “He wasn’t getting many swings and misses with them, so it allowed us to be able to get fastballs in good counts and we didn’t miss them the first couple innings.”
Heyward finished the game 3-for-5 for his first three-hit game since June 24 at Boston.