Mired in his longest losing streak of the year, Mike Minor is hoping to get back on track in his final tuneup before the playoffs.
Facing the punchless Philadelphia Phillies could certainly help his cause.
Minor tries to snap a five-start winless stretch as the Atlanta Braves continue their quest for home-field advantage Saturday night against the visiting Phillies.
Minor (13-8, 3.22 ERA) has been one of the Braves' best pitchers this season, posting career highs and team bests of 175 strikeouts and 198 2-3 innings. The left-hander, though, has followed a 4-0 stretch by going 0-3 with a 4.36 ERA over the last four weeks.
"I don't think it's been great, and I think it shows," said Minor, who has allowed seven homers during his funk. "But it's one of those things that I thought I pitched pretty well all year, but right now I'm kind of struggling a little bit."
Minor saw his woes continue Monday in a 5-0 loss to Milwaukee, yielding three runs on two homers in seven innings.
"I think I'm trying to throw more sinkers in and when I throw four-seamers away or try to go back and forth with them, there's a different release point and I think I'm just leaving the ball up," he said. "They're big-league hitters, so when they see that, they take advantage of it."
Minor gave up two runs and struck out nine over seven innings in a 2-1 loss at Philadelphia on Sept. 6, dropping to 2-3 with a 3.82 ERA in six starts against the Phillies. Carlos Ruiz is 0 for 8 in their matchups, and Jimmy Rollins is 3 for 14.
Minor now tries to help the NL East champions keep pace with St. Louis for the league's best record. Atlanta (95-65), which is tied with the Cardinals, won 1-0 on Friday behind Chris Johnson 's eighth-inning homer and a dominant showing from Kris Medlen .
"I just want to take it to the playoffs," Medlen said.
Philadelphia (72-88) has dropped three straight and eight of nine while hitting .207, including .172 with runners in scoring position. After going 0 for 12 in such situations in a 7-1 defeat the night before, the Phillies failed to get a runner past first base Friday.
Philadelphia's Ethan Martin (2-5, 6.32) is expected to return to the rotation Saturday after pitching out of the bullpen for the last 2 1/2 weeks. The right-hander went 2-4 with a 6.90 ERA in seven starts, including two losses to Atlanta.
After giving up six runs over 4 1-3 innings in his big league debut in a 6-4 loss Aug. 2, he surrendered three over five innings in a 3-1 loss in Atlanta on Aug. 13.
Evan Gattis is 5 for 29 (.172) against the Phillies this year, though three of those hits were homers.
Atlanta's Dan Uggla struck out three times in as many at-bats Friday, giving him a franchise-record 170. The second baseman, who broke his own mark of 168 set last year, is hitting a major league-worst .179 among qualified players.
Braves catcher Brian McCann missed Friday's game due to tightness near his right groin and could remain out until the division series.
|September 23, 2013||Roy Halladay||Day-to-Day||Right arm fatigue|
|September 14, 2013||Kyle Kendrick||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|August 30, 2013||Domonic Brown||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore right Achilles|
|August 28, 2013||Cody Asche||Day-to-Day||Strained left hamstring|
|August 26, 2013||Casper Wells||15-Day DL||Vision complications|
|August 26, 2013||Casper Wells||15-Day DL||Vision complications|
|September 26, 2013||Brian McCann||Day-to-Day||Right adductor strain|
|September 26, 2013||Jordan Walden||Day-to-Day||Groin|
|September 11, 2013||Paul Maholm||Day-to-Day||Sore left elbow|
|September 10, 2013||Justin Upton||Day-to-Day||Bruised right knee|
|August 29, 2013||Justin Upton||Day-to-Day||Left hand injury|
|August 22, 2013||Jason Heyward||15-Day DL||Fractured right jaw|
ATLANTA (AP) -- Exactly what caused the dugout skirmish between Atlanta third baseman Chris Johnson and Braves first base coach Terry Pendleton , no one was saying.
The postgame trouble in the dugout made it clear, however, that the Braves still have plenty to play for in the regular season.
Johnson made a headfirst dive into first base but was thrown out by shortstop Jimmy Rollins to end the game, then argued with Pendleton after the Braves lost to Philadelphia 5-4 Saturday night.
Pendleton grabbed Johnson's jersey with two hands and pulled him face-to-face. There were angry words before they were separated.
There were suggestions the coach was irritated because Johnson threw his helmet in the dugout and it hit Pendleton. But Johnson wouldn't talk about the incident and Pendleton wasn't available.
"Rollins not only made a great play stopping that ball from going into the outfield, but to get up and through Chris out," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
The loss dropped Atlanta one game behind St. Louis for the best record in the National League. If they're tied following Sunday's season finale, the Braves will get home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs.
"That's still a big carrot for us, for us to win and St. Louis to lose to get the No. 1 seed," Gonzalez said.
Down 5-1, the Braves rallied in the ninth on Justin Upton 's three-run homer, his 27th, with two outs. Freddie Freeman singled and Evan Gattis walked to keep the rally going against Jonathan Papelbon .
Johnson hit a grounder to the hole and Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins made a diving stop, got up and made a one-hop throw to first baseman Darin Ruf for the final out.
"Heck of a play to end the game," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "My first thought was he was going to ... third base because it was right in front of us. But when I saw him go ahead and go to first, a perfect one-hop throw and got him. Outstanding!"
Mike Minor (13-9) took the loss after allowing two earned runs in six innings.
Philadelphia rookie Ethan Martin started and allowed a first-inning run in three innings. Fellow rookie Luis Garcia (1-1) pitched two innings of scoreless relief to pick up the win.
Eliminated from playoff contention a while back, the Phillies started five rookies. Cesar Hernandez had a career-high four hits and scored twice, and Cameron Rupp hit a two-run single.
"He's got a knack for swinging the bat," Sandberg said of Hernandez. "He's got good hands. He hits. He hits the fastball."
The NL East champion Braves committed two of their three errors in the seventh as Philadelphia added two runs with the help of a wild pitch by reliever Jordan Walden .
Hernandez put a bunt down the first-base line on the game's first pitch for a single, and Rollins followed with a double on the second pitch by Minor. They scored on Rupp's single.
The Braves scored in the first on singles by Jason Heyward and Upton and a sacrifice fly by Freeman.
The Phillies held the 2-1 lead until the seventh, at which they looked like the team heading to the postseason and Braves looked anything but.
Hernandez opened with a single and took second on Walden's wild pitch. Rollins singled again and Hernandez was initially held up at third, only to restart and scored when Gattis, a converted catcher, bobbled the ball in left.
Rollins took third when Walden's pickoff throw sailed past Freeman at first base and toward the right-field corner. Domonic Brown 's RBI single made it 4-1, and Philadelphia added a run in the eighth on Chase Utley 's single.
The Braves made it close in the ninth when second baseman Elliot Johnson reached on a one-out single, pinch-hitter Jose Constanza followed with a single and Upton homered with two outs.
NOTES: Braves RHP Julio Teheran (13-8, 3.09 ERA) will start Sunday against 31-year-old journeyman Zach Miner (0-1, 3.08), who began his professional career in the Braves' organization. ... Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said C Brian McCann 's strained adductor is improving, and he may get an at-bat or two Sunday. McCann has not played since leaving Thursday's game after two innings with a strained right groin.