Mets-Braves Preview

Mike Minor took a fast track to the major leagues, making his
debut 14 months to the day after the Atlanta Braves made him the
seventh overall pick in the 2009 draft.

His third start showed why he didn’t need much time in the
minors.

After matching a franchise record with 12 strikeouts in his
latest start, Minor looks to improve to 3-0 on Tuesday night as the
Braves continue a four-game set with the visiting New York
Mets.

Minor (2-0, 4.00 ERA) led the Double-A Southern League in
strikeouts before making just five starts in Triple-A, and didn’t
waste much time making an impact once Atlanta (76-55) called on him
to start Aug. 9.

The left-hander beat Washington on Aug. 17 for his first major
league win, then struck out 12 Cubs in a 16-5 rout Aug. 22 to spoil
manager Lou Piniella’s final game in Chicago.

No Braves rookie had fanned that many since the franchise was in
Milwaukee. George Brunet struck out 12 while pitching 10 2-3
innings June 17, 1960, a feat Bob Sadowski matched three years
later.

“He was pretty much dominating today,” Cox said after Minor’s
last start. “Minor has a great idea how to pitch. We knew that when
we drafted him I was told.”

Jason Heyward had two homers among his career-high four hits and
four RBIs to support Minor in Chicago, and he had a similar effort
in Monday’s series opener. The rookie All-Star went 4 for 5 with
four RBIs, including a three-run homer, in a 9-3 victory that was
the NL East leaders’ third straight.

Heyward is hitting .528 (19 for 36) over his last nine
games.

“Since I saw that guy in spring training, I knew he was going to
be that guy who changes everything on this team,” said Braves
infielder Martin Prado, whose three RBIs increased his total to 13
in his past seven games.

The Mets (65-66) will give the ball to a lefty of their own in
Jonathon Niese (8-6, 3.63), who will be looking to put one of his
worst performances behind him. Niese surrendered seven runs – five
in the sixth – and was removed after 5 2-3 innings of an 11-4 loss
to Florida on Thursday.

“He probably wasn’t attacking the strike zone as he was
earlier,” manager Jerry Manuel told the Mets’ official website of
Niese’s troubling final frame. “I guess the lesson to be learned
for him is you’ve got to stay in that attack mode regardless of
what happens.”

Niese is making his Turner Field debut – he’s 1-0 with a 3.00
ERA in three home starts against the Braves. He has been excellent
away from home recently, going 2-1 with a 1.89 ERA in six road
outings since July 1.

Niese has certainly had the number of Atlanta’s Omar Infante,
who leads the NL with a .343 average and is hitting .442 against
the Mets. The second baseman, who needs to average 4.4 plate
appearances the rest of the way to qualify for the batting title,
is 1 for 10 against Niese.

New York third baseman David Wright went 0 for 5 on Monday to
drop his average to .070 (3 for 43) in 12 games versus Atlanta this
season. The Mets have been held to three runs or fewer in each of
the series’ last 11 contests, going 5-6.