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

contests.

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

start.

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

row.