Mike Minor finally provided the Atlanta Braves with their first start of the year in which a pitcher recorded an out after the fifth inning, out-dueling Shaun Marcum and the Milwaukee Brewers to win the series in a 2-1 ballgame.
Minor started out the game with a walk and a single and the second inning with a hit batter, but was bailed out in both innings by double plays by the Atlanta defense. After he plunked Cory Hart in the second, he retired the next 18 Milwaukee batters he faced until the eighth inning when Jonathan Lucroy doubled over Michael Bourn's head with one out, resulting in Jonny Venters relieving him after 7 1/3 innings, the longest outing of any Braves starter this season.
Minor's only charged run came after Venters allowed a single to Mat Gamel that moved Lucroy to third. Venters helped preserve the lead when Cesar Izturis tapped a grounder back to him, and he threw home to get Lucroy out at the plate. Dan Uggla then made a throwing error that allowed Gamel to score to close Minor's line with one unearned run, a walk and four strikeouts in what was by far the most productive start for a Braves pitching staff that has struggled to find its stride.
For comparison, Minor only got through five innings in his first start April 8 against the New York Mets. He gave up six earned runs and four walks in that outing on 104 pitches. Through his 7 1/3 innings Saturday, Minor only threw 99 pitches.
In his own right, Shaun Marcum threw a great game, going seven innings with two runs allowed (one earned) and six strikeouts. The Braves struggled to get three hits off him, with no hits coming between their runs scored in the second and a single by Bourn in the sixth.
The Braves got some unconventional help from third base umpire Bill Welke to score their first run in the second inning. Brian McCann walked to start the inning, and Jason Heyward hit a soft single against the shift to left. As McCann ran for third, Ryan Braun hit him with the throw, which then caromed off Welke, allowing McCann to score and Heyward to reach third.
Juan Francisco then brought Heyward home on a double to center field.
Craig Kimbrel did his best to make things interesting in the ninth to earn his fourth save of the season. Kimbrel issued a one-out walk to Braun, a single to Aramis Ramirez and another walk to Hart to load the bases with a one-run lead. After a visit from Roger McDowell, Kimbrel froze George Kattaras with an 0-2 slider and blew away Gamel with a 97 mile per hour fastball to end the game.
After starting 0-4, the Braves have now evened their record with four straight wins.
Atlanta will go for the sweep Sunday at 1:35, relying on the arm of Brandon Beachy against the lies of Chris Narveson.
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