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Tue, Jun 4, 2013 - 7:10 PM ET
 

Pirates-Braves Preview

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While Jeff Locke has been a pleasant surprise for the Pittsburgh Pirates this season, the Atlanta Braves hoped big things were in store for Mike Minor after he finished strong in 2012.

The two 25-year-old left-handers look to continue their recent success as the Braves try for a fourth consecutive victory Tuesday night against the visiting Pirates.

Locke (5-1, 2.25 ERA) went 1-6 with a 6.36 ERA in 10 career starts over the previous two seasons for Pittsburgh (35-23), but is off to a strong start and riding a scoreless stretch of 19 1-3 innings heading into this contest. He's allowed just 13 hits while going 2-0 in his last three outings, scattering seven in 5 1-3 innings of a 1-0, 11-inning win over Detroit on Thursday.

Perhaps Locke's roughest outing of the year came April 18 when he allowed four runs on three homers and walked walks over a season-low 4 2-3 innings of a 6-4 home loss to Atlanta (35-22).

"They hit the ball over the fence,'' Locke said after that performance. "The biggest thing for me with this team is when you get ahead of them ... they tend to get themselves out sometimes."

Minor (7-2, 2.48) showed signs of brilliance closing his third season when he went 5-0 with a 2.11 ERA in his final seven starts of 2012. He finished May by going 4-0 with a 1.98 ERA over his last six starts, most recently Thursday when he allowed three runs in the sixth inning and lasted seven of an 11-3 win over Toronto.

He is 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA in two starts, however, versus Pittsburgh.

Minor looks to help the Braves stay hot and build on a 7-2 series-opening victory Monday. Brian McCann, Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman each hit two-run homers as Atlanta won for the 13th time in 17 games.

Freeman is batting .400 (18 for 45) with four homers and 12 RBIs in the last 11 games. He's hitting .378 in nine games against the Pirates at Turner Field.

Heyward, meanwhile, had two hits after going 0 for 18 with eight strikeouts in his previous six games.

"Maybe that will get him going and get him back to the real Jason Heyward that we like,'' Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

McCann is batting .226 (7 for 31) in his last nine games, but recorded his 1,000th hit Monday.

"It's a cool moment,'' McCann said after he received a standing ovation from the home crowd.

Gaby Sanchez had two hits with an RBI for the Pirates, who have lost three of four after winning 16 of 20. He's batted .375 (3 for 8) with two doubles against Minor.

Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen will return to Pittsburgh's lineup after being given off Monday.

"We gotta be mindful of how much ground he is covering," manager Clint Hurdle told the Pirates' official website. "We've actually hand-picked some days. We picked (Monday) a while ago."

Tagged: Braves, Pirates, Brian McCann, Jason Heyward, Mike Minor

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