Three Cuts: Braves swept by M's, despite Minor's magic
Jun 4, 2014 at 4:27p ET
ATLANTA -- Here are three things we gleaned from the Braves' 2-0 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday -- marking the second time this season Atlanta has either swept or been swept by opponents in three consecutive series.
1. Perhaps Mike Minor should skip major-league outings every April
The above comment was made with tongue planted firmly in cheek, but it also reflects how Minor was more than just a May marvel with the Braves.
For the day, Minor yielded only one run and five hits over seven scintillating innings, while fanning 10 Mariners hitters. It also marked the third time in the southpaw's career he posted double-digit strikeouts ... and walked three or fewer hitters.
Subsequently, Minor (2-4) dropped his seasonal ERA to 3.07 -- a highly deceptive figure for someone who has surrendered three runs or less in six of his seven starts.
The lone blemish on Minor's seasonal resume: Giving up six runs and 11 hits against the Cardinals on May 7 -- his second MLB outing of the year.
"Mikey was outstanding," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez in his post-game media address, while praising Minor's focus and durability over five consecutive starts. "The last few times he's been out there, he's given us a great opportunity to win the game. But hey, you've got to score runs."
The stoic, yet accommodating Minor offered a mixed self-review of Wednesday's effort.
On one hand, he was particularly happy with the control of his curveball.
However, "the other stuff, I was effectively wild," said Minor, who logged 109 overall pitches and 66 strikes against the Mariners (31-28).
Minor was similarly modest about the "extra" movement on his two-seam fastball: "Sometimes it was straight, sometimes it moved. It kept them off balance just enough, because it was in the strike zone."
2. Don't chalk up the Braves' lack of hitting punch to the 'Getaway Game Blues'
With a Thursday off day leading into the Arizona/Colorado trip (six total games), give Gonzalez credit for putting his best forward -- on paper -- with Wednesday's lineup, rolling out the eight most productive hitters/playmakers on the active roster.
With the short turnaround time (12:10 p.m. start), Gonzalez could have easily penciled in two, three or even four reserves into the lineup, on the rationale of giving stars like Justin Upton (1 for 4 vs. Seattle), Freddie Freeman (0 for 4), Jason Heyward (the only Brave with two hits) or even rookie Tommy La Stella essentially two days off (Wednesday/Thursday) before taking on the Diamondbacks.
Instead, the Braves went all out to salvage one game in this short series, while mollifying a Turner Field crowd (26,960) that will only see the home team nine times for all of June.
Obviously, things didn't work out for the Braves hitters, as Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma (zero runs, zero walks allowed, seven strikeouts) outdueled Minor over seven superb innings.
"(Getting shut out) stings the offense a little bit," said Braves third baseman Chris Johnson. Iwakuma "was definitely on his game today."
The larger point: Fans can rally behind a club that doesn't treat matinee outings -- especially ones preceding road trips -- as throwaway efforts, designed to get the reserves starting reps, en masse.
It also takes the edge off two ugly stats:
1) The Braves have already been blanked seven times.
2) Atlanta has scored three runs or less 32 times this season.
"(This is a) team that shouldn't be shut out (seven times) because we're so talented, offensively. But you've got to keep going," says Gonzalez.
3. Closer Craig Kimbrel missed his chance to break the Braves' all-time saves mark at home
Kimbrel (1.77 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 37/9 K-BB, 15 of 17 save chances) tied John Smoltz's franchise mark (154 saves) on Saturday against the Marlins, completing a cycle of pitching on back-to- back-to-back days.
Since then, though, the All-Star hurler has been dormant in the bullpen ... meaning he'll endure a minimum waiting period of six days between outings -- assuming Kimbrel takes the mound on Friday (against the Diamondbacks).
That kind of break isn't without precedent this season: In mid-April, Kimbrel waited seven days between mound appearances; and when returning on April 19 against the Mets, he subsequently surrendered two runs and three hits in the Braves' 7-5 victory (non-save situation).
3a. Here's why the Braves (31-27) still lead the National League East, despite a porous offensive showing after two months
Heading into Wednesday, not a single NL East club (Braves, Marlins, Nationals, Mets, Phillies) had a season-high winning streak that trumped their season-high losing skid.
In fact, the 28-28 Nationals were the only division club to break even with the winning/losing streaks, posting equally mundane spurts (positive/negative) of four games apiece.
Which brings us to this rhetorical question: How long can Atlanta preserve a division lead while ranking in the bottom-six offenses for batting average (25th), hits (27th), on-base percentage (27th) and runs (31st)?