Braves unable to pick up Minor against Fish

Braves unable to pick up Minor against Fish

Braves unable to pick up Minor against Fish
ATLANTA -- The middle innings are becoming a nightmare for Mike Minor.

The Marlins put up three runs in the fourth inning and three more in the fifth against Minor to beat the Braves, 8-4, in the opener of the two-game set Wednesday night at Turner Field.

Miami's fireworks offset Martin Prado's second straight three-hit night and Dan Uggla's two hits, a run scored and an RBI.

On a night that Michael Bourn took off his first game of the season and Chipper Jones also rested, it appeared the bullpen might get a night off as well, as Minor allowed only a walk the first time through the order.

"I thought the first three innings he did whatever he wanted to through that lineup," said manager Fredi Gonzalez. "I thought we were going to go deep into the ballgame with him. But that's just the way it goes sometimes."

Things fell apart just as suddenly for Mike Minor (2-3), who lasted 4 2/3 innings, allowing six runs (all earned) on six hits. It was the second consecutive start he lasted fewer than five innings. He is winless in five starts (0-2, with three no-decisions) and has allowed 27 earned runs in 20 2/3 innings in his last four games, an 11.95 ERA.

"I felt good the first time through," Minor said. "The next time through, my secondary pitches, I threw a lot in the dirt. They weren't even competitive when they left my hand. They were already too low to even bite at. It's easy when you can sit back and wait on a good pitch and hit it."

Marlins starter Mark Buehrle (3-4) got the win, extending his unbeaten streak to three starts (2-0, one no-decision) and raising his career record against the Braves to 3-0, with a 4.05 ERA. Despite matching his season high by allowing four earned runs, he pitched at least six innings for the seventh time in eight starts. It was the 31st time Marlins starters have gone at least six innings in 38 games.

That run looked to be in jeopardy, as Atlanta came out swinging in its half of the first.

Shortstop Tyler Pastornicky, leading off for the first time in his Major League career, singled to start the bottom of the first. He went to third when Prado doubled, and scored on a groundout by Freddie Freeman.

Prado's double gave him an eight-game hitting streak, during which he's hit .471 (16-for-34). But Atlanta could not do any further damage to Buehrle, as the lefty retired 10 in a row after the Prado hit and allowed only two hits over the next four innings.

"We had him out of it early on and kind of let him get off the hook. Then he settled in and started making his pitches," said Pastornicky, who now has a five-game hitting streak. "Once he gets in his groove like that and starts making his pitches, there's not a whole lot you can do."

Buehrle's groove gave the Marlins time to break through.

In the fourth, Miami sent eight men to the plate, scoring three times on four hits to take a 3-1 lead. Left fielder Austin Kearns provided the big blow with a two-run double.

Atlanta nearly tied it in the bottom of the inning, but with two out and runners on second and third, Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton made a diving catch following a long run toward the right-field line that took away a game-tying, extra-base hit from Jason Heyward.

Instead, Miami added on in the fifth, using its speed to steal a run. With one out and runners at the corners, former Braves infielder Omar Infante broke for second. When catcher Brian McCann threw down, Jose Reyes took off from third and easily stole home.

Miami, which leads the Majors with 44 stolen bases, was 4-for-4 in steal attempts, with Infante getting two of them.

Two batters later, Gaby Sanchez's single chased Minor. An Emilio Bonifacio single off Cristhian Martinez made it 6-1.

The Braves scored three times in the sixth on Uggla's RBI single and RBI groundouts by McCann and Matt Diaz, but Stanton's two-run homer in the seventh off Martinez, his eighth of the year, extended the lead to 8-4.

Atlanta was unable to cash in on three hits in its half of the seventh off reliever Steve Cishek. Juan Francisco was thrown out at third trying to stretch a leadoff double, and with two out, Randy Choate retired Freeman on a rocket to left field with runners on first and third.

Minor said he's determined to put this loss, the Braves' ninth in 14 series openers, behind him while rebuilding his confidence.

"I don't want to go out there every fifth day and people look at me as, 'Are we going to have another game like we did last week?' or 'are we going to have to score a lot of runs this week because Minor's on the mound?'" the lefty said. "I feel like I let the team down, let myself down, and the organization down. And the fans. I'm going to keep on working as hard as I can and try to get better every week."

Minor still has his manager's and teammates' support, however.

"We're going to have to be patient with him," said Gonzalez. "It's just part of experience. Getting through those innings, minimizing the damage, doing all those sort of things. That comes with running him back out there and saying, 'Hey, let's get through it.'"

"Mike will bounce back," added Pastornicky. "He's got great stuff and he has a lot of confidence with his stuff, and that's what you need to come back from a situation like this. He'll be fine."

Atlanta will try to gain a split in the series and the four-game homestand on Thursday, giving the ball to National League ERA leader Brandon Beachy.

Jon Cooper is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.