Braves-Astros Preview

Solid pitching has kept the Atlanta Braves in first place in the
NL East. With a member of their rotation possibly facing
season-ending surgery, they’ll turn to one of their top prospects
to help keep them there.

Mike Minor will make his major league debut when the Braves open
a three-game series against the Houston Astros on Monday night.

Atlanta (64-47) took three of four from San Francisco over the
weekend, winning 6-3 on Sunday to maintain a two-game lead over
Philadelphia and complete a 5-2 homestand. Its next three games are
on the road, where the club has dropped seven of 10.

“I don’t think we really have road woes,” catcher David Ross
told the Braves’ official website. “But obviously we want to go to
Houston and take care of business.”

Ross hit a two-run homer and Omar Infante added a solo shot
Sunday to back Derek Lowe, who gave up two runs in 5 1-3 innings
before leaving with cramps in his right hamstring.

The Braves have posted a 1.73 ERA in their last eight games.
Atlanta is fourth in the NL with a 3.50 ERA.

A key contributor to that success was Kris Medlen, who was 6-2
with a 3.68 ERA before being placed on the 15-day disabled list
with a strained right elbow. The Braves are waiting to see if he’ll
need surgery.

Although Medlen had replaced Kenshin Kawakami in the rotation,
Atlanta chose to call up Minor instead of moving Kawakami back into
a starter’s role. Minor, the seventh overall draft pick in 2009,
was 4-1 with a 1.89 ERA in six Triple-A starts.

“The Braves wouldn’t call guys up if they weren’t ready,” third
baseman Chipper Jones said. “He’s a first-round pick. We spent a
lot of money on him. Somebody out there thinks he’s a pretty darn
good pitcher.”

Jones will try to help provide the left-hander with the kind of
run support the Braves gave their pitchers during their last series
with the Astros (47-63). Atlanta outscored Houston 21-4 in sweeping
the three-game set April 30-May 2.

Houston has lost four in a row and was swept over the weekend by
Milwaukee, getting outscored 30-17 in the three games. It lost 11-6
on Sunday after Wesley Wright failed to make it out of the third
inning, giving up seven runs.

The Astros have scored 6.7 runs a game in the last 11

Bud Norris (4-7, 5.65 ERA) benefited from Houston’s hot hitting
in his last outing, pitching six innings of four-run ball in an
18-4 victory over St. Louis on Tuesday. He won his second straight

In his only matchup with the Braves, the right-hander gave up
seven runs in 4 2-3 innings of a 7-1 loss May 2.

Houston plays its next 10 at home, where it has won five in a