Mike Minor looks to conclude his regular season with another impressive performance.
The Atlanta Braves hope he'll get a chance to carry that success into the playoffs.
Minor looks to match the longest winning streak of his career Saturday night when the Braves face the New York Mets in the middle game of this series.
Minor (10-10, 4.27 ERA) is 4-0 with a 2.48 ERA in his last six starts, going 3-0 with a 1.09 ERA in four outings this month.
A victory in this game would be his fifth straight, matching his career high set over seven starts from June 21-Sept. 8, 2011.
Minor's success is a big reason he's expected to be part of the Braves' postseason rotation. It's also a vast improvement after his ERA reached 7.09 in May. That included his only meeting with the Mets on April 8, when he surrendered six runs with four walks in five innings of a 7-5 defeat.
"He went from possibly being on the brink of being sent down to being one of our most consistent pitchers over the last month or month and a half," third baseman Chipper Jones told the team's official website. "He's been outstanding. He can go out and compete with anybody."
Minor continued his dazzling run in an 8-2 victory at Philadelphia on Saturday, yielding two runs and two hits with six strikeouts in six innings.
"It's just experience," said Minor, who is 2-1 with a 7.56 ERA in five career starts versus New York. "It's about having a better game plan, pitching to my strengths and kind of knowing the guys and how to pitch them."
Atlanta (91-66) may need another strong performance from Minor after the offense was held to four hits in Friday's 3-1 loss, just the Braves' second defeat in 12 meetings with New York. It was also a night to honor retiring Jones, who is 0 for 9 in the last three games.
"I'm glad it's over," Jones said. "I just want to concentrate on baseball. All the attention needs to take a backseat so we can focus on the job at hand."
While the Braves have secured the NL's top wild-card spot, they still have an outside chance at catching NL East-leading Washington. They trail by four games with five to play.
New York has won seven of eight, averaging 5.1 runs and hitting 12 homers.
Chris Young (4-8, 4.21) would certainly appreciate that type of production as he takes the mound for the final time in 2012.
The right-hander is 0-1 with a 2.89 ERA in three starts since winning at Miami on Sept. 2. He's been backed by four total runs in those three appearances.
Despite his losing record and failing to win any of his eight home starts, manager Terry Collins likes what he sees out of Young since he's returned from major shoulder surgery in June.
"Chris has really been amazing," Collins told the team's official website. "I can't say enough about what kind of a guy (he is), and how hard he's had to work. ... He keeps himself in tremendous shape and just knows what he's doing on the mound."
Young is 0-1 with a 7.00 ERA in two starts against the Braves this year, losing 7-5 at Atlanta on July 13. He was tagged for five runs and six hits with three walks in three innings.
|New York Mets|
|September 25, 2012||Robert Carson||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left triceps|
|September 12, 2012||Ronny Cedeno||Day-to-Day||Left game - tight right hamstring|
|September 07, 2012||Andres Torres||Day-to-Day||Left knee bruise|
|August 18, 2012||Johan Santana||15-Day DL||Lower back inflammation|
|August 15, 2012||Rob Johnson||60-Day DL||Torn ligament, left thumb|
|August 02, 2012||Tim Byrdak||60-Day DL||Sore left shoulder|
|September 18, 2012||Paul Janish||Day-to-Day||Shoulder|
|September 15, 2012||Brian McCann||Day-to-Day||Left game - right hamstring tendinitis|
|August 25, 2012||Ben Sheets||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|August 25, 2012||Ben Sheets||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|August 10, 2012||Chipper Jones||Day-to-Day||Back tightness|
|August 01, 2012||Jair Jurrjens||15-Day DL||Strained right groin|
ATLANTA (AP) -- Mike Minor wasn't sure if he will have another turn in the rotation, so he wanted to end the regular season impressively.
Minor pitched 6 1-3 sharp innings to win his fifth straight decision, Martin Prado and Jason Heyward each had an RBI and the Atlanta Braves beat the New York Mets 2-0 on Saturday night.
"I had a lot of nerves tonight," he said. "I don't think it was because of the crowd. It was like, `OK, this could possibly be my last start.' I don't know if I'll start again. I might come out of the bullpen, where ever they need me."
Chipper Jones , who played his next-to-last regular-season game at Turner Field, was hitless in four at-bats.
Craig Kimbrel earned his 41st save of in 44 chances with a scoreless but shaky ninth.
The Braves have won six of seven and 11 of 15, but they are four games behind Washington in the National League East with four games to play. Washington beat St. Louis 6-4 in 10 innings on Saturday night.
One more Washington victory or Atlanta loss will eliminate the Braves from the division race and they will host a wild-card playoff game next Friday.
"Tonight was a good team win because we had a lot of guys come out of the bullpen, Martin had a couple big hits, we played some defense," Minor said. "We got the win tonight and also I'm not even anymore. I've got a winning record."
In the ninth, leadoff batter Ruben Tejada reached against Kimbrel on second baseman Dan Uggla 's fielding error and advanced to second on a wild pitch before pinch-hitter Daniel Murphy flew out.
Kimbrel, one of the majors' hardest throwers, hit David Wright in the groin area. The ball ricocheted off Wright and hit home-plate umpire Paul Nauert in the mask. Trainers had to tend to both Wright and Nauert, who both stayed in the game.
Kimbrel settled down to strike out pinch-hitter Ike Davis and Lucas Duda to end it.
Wright, who confirmed that an 88 mph slider hit him in a sensitive spot, was glad Kimbrel didn't throw his fastball, which hit 100 mph two pitches earlier.
"I'm lucky that he hit me with a slider," Wright said. "A fastball would've been a different story, obviously. Now I know what those catchers have to go through on a regular basis. I've got a little more respect for them now."
Minor (11-10) allowed three hits, no walks and struck out four, leaving after Wright's double in the seventh.
Chad Durbin got the second out of the inning on Scott Hairston 's flyout. Luis Avilan balked on his first pitch to Duda, advancing Wright to third, before Duda struck out.
Prado leads the NL and ranks second in the majors with 60 multi-hit games.
Atlanta went ahead 1-0 in the first when Prado hit a one-out double, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on Jason Heyward 's RBI groundout.
In the third, Andrelton Simmons lined a leadoff single to left, moved to second on Minor's sacrifice bunt, and scored on Prado's two-out RBI double off the wall in left-center.
Minor, who allowed just two singles through six innings, improved to 4-0 with a 0.87 ERA over his last four starts, a span of 31 innings. The left-hander is 5-0 in his last seven starts.
In six career starts against the Mets, Minor is 3-1 and with a 6.03 ERA over 31 1-3 innings.
"I think the turning point of his season was the game against the Yankees at home," Braves catcher Brian McCann said. "He came out and attacked them and trusted his stuff. I think once he got through the Yankees and showed himself he can do that, he can get through anything."
Chris Young (4-9) gave up seven hits, two runs and one walk with six strikeouts in six innings. The Mets have scored just four runs in his last four starts.
"In his last two starts, his velocity climbed," New York manager Terry Collins said. "It was up 3 to 4 mph, which I was very impressed with. He gets himself ready to pitch as well as anyone I've been around. Makes mistakes once and while but for the most part, he executes his pitches."
Jonny Venters allowed two singles in a scoreless eighth for Atlanta.
Elvin Ramirez pitched a scoreless seventh and Ramon Ramirez did the same in the eighth for New York, which has 85 losses, the same number as last season.
Kimbrel lowered his ERA to 1.02 and has 113 strikeouts in 61 1-3 innings.
"That quality of arm, you won't see many like that, and that arm angle he throws from is very, very deceptive," Collins said. "It's very hard to pick up. He throws both of his pitches for strikes. And when it's (letters high), there's not many guys that can get on top of that pitch. There's no doubt he's one of the best in the league."
Notes: Jones has gone hitless with three walks in his last 13 at-bats. ... Manager Fredi Gonzalez said the Braves will have three starting pitchers (RHP Kris Medlen , Tim Hudson and either LHPs Minor or Paul Maholm ) with seven relievers and three catchers on the 25-man roster if they host a wild-card game. ... Gonzalez said Venters pitched the eighth because LHP Eric O'Flaherty has a stiff back and wasn't available. ...SS Simmons ran into center field to make a diving catch to rob Wright of a single in the fourth. ... Braves CF Michael Bourn missed his sixth straight game with a sprained left thumb. ... Atlanta will try to win Medlen's 23rd straight start on Sunday. Medlen (9-1) will pitch opposite RHP Jenrry Mejia (1-1). ... Mets manager Terry Collins said before the game that Wright will get Sunday off. ... Prado's double was his 41st, fifth-most in the NL. ... Avilan has allowed just four earned runs over his last 25 appearances.