Braves-Cubs Preview

Mike Minor got the Atlanta Braves heading in the right direction

with one of the best outings of his career.

The Braves pitchers have kept rolling with their longest

scoreless streak in nearly nine years, which they will try to

extend when Minor starts again Tuesday night against the Chicago

Cubs.

Minor (3-2, 4.26 ERA) had won two of his previous three starts,

including one against the Cubs on Aug. 12, before a 1-0 victory

over San Francisco on Thursday. The left-hander allowed four hits

and struck out nine over six innings while outdueling two-time NL

Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum.

“He’s obviously the better pitcher,” Minor said. “It’s a big

win. … Instead of giving in, I tried to bear down.”

Atlanta has kept that momentum going by allowing three runs over

its five straight victories and none since the first inning of an

8-1 win over Arizona on Saturday. The Braves scattered nine hits

and stranded 15 runners in a 3-0 series-opening victory Monday at

Wrigley Field.

Dan Uggla and Freddie Freeman homered as Atlanta (77-52) moved 8

1/2 games ahead of idle San Francisco in the wild card race.

The Braves’ scoreless innings streak of 26 innings is their

longest since going 29 straight in September 2002, also the last

time they posted three straight shutouts. Minor will try to help

his team accomplish that feat while winning his third consecutive

start against the Cubs (56-72). He gave up three runs and nine hits

over 5 2-3 innings versus Chicago earlier this month at Turner

Field.

That game also featured a meltdown from Carlos Zambrano after he

was tagged for eight runs over 4 1-3 innings and ejected for

throwing two inside pitches at Chipper Jones.

Zambrano cleaned out his locker and threatened to retire

following that miserable outing, prompting the Cubs to place him on

the 30-day disqualified list.

Before Monday’s game, that was the Braves’ only previous victory

over the Cubs this season, but they might earn another against

Zambrano’s replacement in the rotation, the struggling Casey

Coleman (2-5, 7.43).

The right-hander failed to make it through the fourth inning

after being recalled from Triple-A Iowa on Wednesday, giving up

four runs and 10 hits in a 4-3 loss in Houston.

Coleman was sent down to the minors June 11 after going 2-4 with

a 7.78 ERA in his first 10 appearances but was solid in a spot

start against Washington on July 4, allowing three runs and five

hits over 5 1-3 innings.

It’s unknown if Starlin Castro, the NL’s leader with 164 hits,

will return to the lineup to help Coleman in his first matchup with

the Braves. The Cubs shortstop was given “a mental day off” Monday

after television cameras caught him not paying attention in the

field during a 6-2 loss to St. Louis the previous night.

Castro apologized to his teammates, but manager Mike Quade

wouldn’t say if he would return to the lineup Tuesday.

“I was really disappointed and surprised, very surprised at

him,” Quade said. “It is something we’ve been after him about from

Day 1, focus-wise. To be honest with you, with his talent,

sometimes that’s the toughest challenge for him.”

Castro is 2 for 6 in his career against Minor, while Marlon Byrd

has more hits off the left-hander than any other batter, going 4

for 6. Aramis Ramirez, batting .512 during an 11-game hit streak,

is 3 for 6 with a home run.