Dodgers-Braves Preview

A pair of home run-induced comebacks have the Atlanta Braves on

the brink of their first series sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers in

over five years.

They may be hoping that giving the ball to Mike Minor could make

things a bit easier on themselves.

Minor looks to continue a dazzling stretch that dates to last

season as he attempts to lead the Braves to a third straight win

over the Dodgers on Sunday.

Atlanta (24-18) is among the best power-hitting teams in

baseball with 55 homers, and the long ball has fueled the team’s

recent success.

Justin Upton’s sixth-inning go-ahead grand slam helped the

Braves win the series opener 8-5 on Friday, and back-to-back homers

from rookies Evan Gattis and Andrelton Simmons in the eighth inning

Saturday accounted for the offense in a 3-1 victory.

Gattis’ two-run, pinch-hit shot was his eighth homer, and he

ranks third in the majors with six game-winning RBIs.

“He likes these moments, it seems like,” manager Fredi Gonzalez

said of Gattis, a backup catcher, first baseman and outfielder.

“It’s almost better that you can put him in anywhere you want, but

sooner or later we’ve got to get him three or four at-bats.”

Thanks to the homers, Atlanta is in position to sweep its first

series from Los Angeles since winning all three games at home from

April 18-20, 2008.

Minor (5-2, 2.75 ERA) has been the Braves’ best starter since

September, going 9-2 with a 2.05 ERA while limiting opponents to

.186 at the plate. He’s 4-1 with a 1.36 ERA in six home starts over

that stretch. The left-hander has yielded two runs in 13 2-3

innings while winning his last two starts.

Minor has a 2.37 ERA in three starts versus the Dodgers, but

owns an 0-1 record since he’s been backed by four total runs. He

was the hard-luck loser in a 5-0 home defeat Aug. 19, allowing one

run in seven innings.

That may change since Chris Johnson is 13 for 28 with three

doubles, one triple, two homers and eight RBIs over his last eight

meetings with Los Angeles. The third baseman had three hits

Saturday and is 8 for 14 over the past four games to increase his

season average 32 points to .339.

The Dodgers have lost five games in a row on the road for the

first time since a six-game slide from Aug. 28-Sept. 9, 2010.

Their bullpen continues to be a problem, compiling a 6.75 ERA

over the last five games as the visitors and losing four of those

games. That includes the first two games of this series, as five

relievers have surrendered eight runs in 3 2-3 innings.

Matt Magill (0-0, 6.92) may be hoping to spell the bullpen as he

tries to make a case for a regular spot in the rotation since Ted

Lilly (strained rib cage) is close to being activated from the

disabled list.

“We’ll see what happens,” manager Don Mattingly told the team’s

official website. “We’ll see how Magill looks.”

Magill hasn’t looked good in his last two outings, yielding

eight runs with eight walks in 6 1-3 innings.

Matt Kemp is a .174 hitter in Atlanta and mired in an 0-for-21

slump over the past five visits. He had a .328 average during a

14-game hitting streak before going 0 for 9 in this series.

Kemp is 1 for 8 versus Minor.