Solid starting pitching is a major reason the Atlanta Braves have built a sizable lead atop the NL East, and the rotation has been especially stellar since the calender turned to June.
Atlanta (38-24) has a 7 1/2-game lead in the division, due in large part to a pitching staff that boasts a 3.17 ERA that's the best in baseball. The starters' 3.38 mark ranks third, and that ERA has been improving steadily through the month.
The Braves are 6-2 in June, and Kris Medlen 's performance Saturday gave the rotation a 0.98 ERA in those games as he pitched 6 2-3 scoreless innings in a 2-1 victory.
No starter has given up more than two earned runs while the rotation has recorded 45 strikeouts during the hot stretch."Our starting pitching's been the backbone of this team," said second baseman Dan Uggla , who homered Saturday. "They've been so consistent and kept us in ballgames, and they battle. They've just done an amazing job, going deep into games and taking a little stress off of our bullpen."
Minor (7-2, 2.52 ERA) hasn't lost in his past seven starts and has not allowed more than two earned runs in his last six, going 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA during that stretch. He gave up four runs but only two earned in six innings of a 5-4, 10-inning win over Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
The left-hander has gone 0-1 with a 2.52 ERA in four career starts versus the Dodgers. He allowed two runs and struck out nine in six innings of a 5-2 win May 19, though he didn't get the decision.
Matt Magill made his fourth career start and allowed one run and struck out eight in five innings in that contest for the Dodgers, and he'll oppose Minor again Sunday. Ted Lilly had been scheduled to be on the mound but was scratched due to chronic neck pain.
"He's going to have to give us more assurance than he thinks he'll be OK," manager Don Mattingly said of Lilly. "He has to be fairly certain he can go out and compete."
Magill (0-1, 6.38) was sent to Triple-A Albuquerque after a dismal outing last Sunday, when he walked nine and gave up seven runs in six innings of a 7-2 loss to Colorado.
Mattingly is hoping Magill has recovered from that poor showing during his time back in the minors.
"Magill has thrown a few (bullpen sessions) down there to help 'detox,'" Mattingly said. "He's a tough kid, and I think he recognized his rough start as a learning situation."
He'll look to bounce back against a Braves lineup that has managed three runs in the series. Los Angeles (27-34) won Thursday's opener 5-0 before a 2-1, 10-inning victory Friday.
Yasiel Puig went 2 for 4 on Saturday after hitting a grand slam Thursday and homering again Friday. The highly touted rookie is 10 for 23 (.435) with four homers and 10 RBIs as the Dodgers have gone 4-2 since he was called up Monday.
Hanley Ramirez had a pinch-hit RBI single Saturday after not starting for the third straight game due to a sore left hamstring. It's uncertain if he'll be in lineup for this contest.
The Braves have won four of six meetings with the Dodgers this season.
|Jerry Hairston Jr.||2||.500||1||0||0||0||0||.500||1.000||.500|
|May 29, 2013||Kris Medlen||Day-to-Day||Left game - left upper calf contusion|
|May 18, 2013||Eric O'Flaherty||15-Day DL||Left elbow surgery - out for season|
|May 13, 2013||B.J. Upton||Day-to-Day||Left game - Left shoulder contusion|
|May 12, 2013||Jordan Walden||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|May 12, 2013||Jordan Walden||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|May 05, 2013||Juan Francisco||Day-to-Day||Sprained right ankle|
|Los Angeles Dodgers|
|June 08, 2013||Ted Lilly||Day-to-Day||Neck discomfort|
|June 07, 2013||Hanley Ramirez||Day-to-Day||Hamstring|
|June 05, 2013||Mark Ellis||Day-to-Day||Groin injury|
|June 02, 2013||Carl Crawford||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
|June 02, 2013||Hyun-Jin Ryu||Day-to-Day||Sore foot|
|May 30, 2013||Chris Capuano||15-Day DL||Left shoulder latissimus strain|
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Dan Uggla 's batting average is the last thing on his mind. The slugging second baseman prefers to concentrate on home runs, RBIs and the Atlanta Braves ' comfortable lead atop the NL East.
Uggla had two homers and four RBIs in an 8-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday. It was the 18th multihomer game for the three-time All-Star and his second this year.
Since the start of the 2006 season, his first in the majors, Uggla leads all players at his position with 222 home runs - 42 more than Yankees slugger Robinson Cano . He entered this four-game series hitting .183.
"The batting average is what it is," Uggla said. "I mean, it ain't the first time I've hit .180, .170, .160, whatever. But I throw those numbers out the door. The way I look at it, we're eight games up right now - and that's without me doing anything at all. But I know what I'm capable of doing. And if I can be more consistent and help these guys out by driving in some runs, that's all that matters.
"You always want to feel like you matter and feel like you were a factor. There were a lot of times this year where I didn't. So to get some homers and drive in some runs feels good," he added.
Freddie Freeman drove in three runs with a double and Mike Minor kept the Braves' rotation rolling with six solid innings. Atlanta had an eight-game lead over second-place Washington - the largest of any division leader - pending the nightcap of the Nationals' doubleheader against Minnesota.
The Braves, who won the season series 5-2, grabbed a 4-1 lead with four runs in the third against rookie Matt Magill (0-2). All of them were unearned because of an error by three-time Gold Glove first baseman Adrian Gonzalez , who fielded Justin Upton 's dribbler a few feet from the foul line and dropped the ball while making a hurried attempt to tag him. It was his seventh error, two more than he had last season.
Freeman's single loaded the bases, and Evan Gattis followed with a sacrifice fly before Uggla drove a 2-1 pitch into the Dodgers' bullpen in left field. He led off the fifth against Ronald Belisario with his 13th of the season and third in two days.
"He's a veteran player, he's been around a while and he's seen every kind of pitch. So nothing can fool him," Magill said. "But if you don't have good command, you can't get anybody out."
Minor (8-2) allowed a run and six hits, struck out six and walked three while helping the Braves gain a split of the four-game series. The left-hander is 5-0 with a 1.76 ERA over his last seven starts.
Atlanta's rotation has yielded four runs in 37 1-3 innings spanning the team's last six games. The stretch includes eight innings of one-hit ball by rookie Julio Teheran - who came within four outs of a no-hitter on Wednesday against Pittsburgh - and back-to-back starts by Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm in which each allowed one run in Braves losses.
"It's just a friendly competition among everybody. You always want to top the guy before you," Minor said.
Magill was charged with seven runs - three earned - and four hits over 3 2-3 innings in his sixth major league start, none of which the Dodgers have won. The 23-year-old right-hander from Simi Valley issued six walks, giving him 28 in 27 2-3 innings and a 6.51 ERA.
He was recalled Sunday from Triple-A Albuquerque to fill in for Ted Lilly , who wasn't able to pitch because of a neck sprain and was placed on the disabled list for the third time this season.
"It's tough not being able to have a set schedule and not being able to pitch every five days," said Magill, who gave up nine walks last Sunday at Colorado in a 7-2 loss. "But when they need you here, you've got to make sacrifices and still be able to compete. That's why it's so frustrating, because I'm not giving myself a chance to win games. I know in my head I can do it, but my body's just not hooking up right now the way I want it to and my fastball command hasn't been there."
Atlanta increased the margin to 7-1 in the fourth when Magill loaded the bases with his second walk of the inning and gave up Freeman's three-run double just beyond the outstretched glove of center fielder Skip Schumaker after getting a visit from pitching coach Rick Honeycutt .
"When you've got bases loaded and two outs, you just want to try and get at least one more run," said Freeman, second in the NL in hitting with runners in scoring position. "I'm not trying to do anything differently with guys on base. I just try to hit the ball hard every single at-bat, and for some reason they seem to fall with people on. I was fortunate to get one in the gap and luckily he didn't make that play. It's always nice to kind of blow it open a little bit and let Mike settle in."
Los Angeles loaded the bases with none out in the first on the first of three hits by electrifying rookie Yasiel Puig , a bunt single by Nick Punto and a walk to Gonzalez. Puig was forced at the plate on a grounder and Luis Cruz struck out, but Schumaker drove in Punto with an infield single. That extended his career-high hitting streak to 15 games, the longest by a Dodgers player this season.
NOTES: Puig completed his first week in the majors with 13 hits in 28 at-bats, four homers and 10 RBIs in seven games. ... Minor is 13-2 with a 2.33 ERA in his last 20 starts, a stretch that began after his 5-0 loss to the Dodgers on Aug. 19. ... Schumaker started in CF for the seventh time this season, with Andre Ethier getting the day off and Matt Kemp still on the DL.