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
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
“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.