Solid early, Minor falters in loss to Yankees

Solid early, Minor falters in loss to Yankees

Solid early, Minor falters in loss to Yankees
NEW YORK -- With Brandon Beachy sidelined for an indefinite period, the Braves do not have the luxury to allow Mike Minor's learning experiences to prove detrimental to their success. But if their once opportunistic lineup starts taking advantage of opportunities again, they might be able to overcome those inevitable pitfalls Minor will encounter.

Minor's sudden fifth-inning struggles, combined with CC Sabathia's ability to extend the woes of a frustrated offense, equated to a 6-2 loss the Braves suffered against the Yankees on Monday night.

"Bottom line is we need to get more consistent," Braves second baseman Dan Uggla said. "We've got to go out, compete and have the same attitude even if we are in the middle of a four- or five-game losing streak. We've got to go out with the same mentality like we just won five in a row. That's the difference between teams that get lost in the shuffle and teams that rise to the top."

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After enduring an eight-game losing streak near the end of May, the Braves won eight of their next nine games and once again seemed to be just fine. But while losing seven of the eight games that have followed, they have increased concerns about their injury-depleted pitching staff and inconsistent offense.

It should be noted four of these losses have come against the Yankees, who have won 10 in a row for the first time since 2005.

If the Braves are going to get on a roll again, they may have to do it without Beachy. After discussing how Minor had suddenly combusted during Monday night's decisive three-run fifth inning, manager Fredi Gonzalez announced that an MRI revealed Beachy has a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He will see Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday to learn whether he will need to undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery.

"The hits just keep coming," said Chipper Jones, who has been limited to four singles in the 25 at-bats he has registered since coming off the disabled list on June 10.

Sabathia allowed two runs and seven hits while rolling toward the 34th complete game of his career. The big left-hander did not encounter as much trouble as he did last week, when he managed to limit the Braves to four runs while allowing 10 hits over seven innings.

But the fact that he allowed just one run while allowing singles to three of the first four hitters he faced in the fifth inning provided some indication of what Jones and his teammates have experienced this past week. The Braves have batted .122 (5-for-41) with runners in scoring position and grounded into 10 double plays during their past seven games.

The Braves did snap a 20-inning scoreless streak after Michael Bourn opened the game with a triple and scored when Martin Prado followed with a groundout. But while recording just one hit in seven at-bats with runners scoring position, their only other run came courtesy of Bourn's fifth-inning RBI single.

"We've got to continue to grind out at-bats," Uggla said. "We've had a lot of double plays the last three games that have set us back and hurt us. You've got to give them credit for making the pitch that they needed to. But we've got to continue to stay positive and keep grinding out at-bats until we start to get some timely hitting again."

Minor held the Yankees hitless until Alex Rodriguez began the bottom of the fifth inning with a single to center. Robinson Cano followed with a walk, and two batters later, Russell Martin cut into Atlanta's 2-1 lead with a ground-rule double down the left-field line. Derek Jeter then capped inning's scoring with a two-run single that he chopped through the middle of the infield with two outs.

Former Braves first baseman Mark Teixeira gave the Yankees a two-run lead when he opened the bottom of the sixth with the 15th home run Minor has surrendered this year. The Braves left-hander was charged with four earned runs and four hits while totaling 99 pitches in 5 2/3 innings.

"Mike outpitched [Sabathia] for the first 4 1/2 innings," Jones said. "It kind of fell apart on him in the fifth. That's what that lineup does to you. It just kind of wears you down, and then they pounce."

After totaling 50 pitches and issuing just one walk through the first four innings, Minor needed 38 pitches to complete the fifth inning. Gonzalez said this was just another instance where his 24-year-old left-hander proved he still has to learn how to go through a lineup multiple times and shut the opponent down when a win is within reach.

Minor's degree of difficulty was increased by the fact that he had limited this same Yankees lineup to one run over 7 1/3 innings six days earlier. But it's safe to say these back-to-back outings indicate he has improved since posting a 9.95 ERA in the six previous starts he made entering this month.

"I feel like every game you can learn something from it," Minor said. "I've had my real bad games and I've learned things from that. Tonight, I can take away good things and reflect on the bad things. But yeah, I'd say every game is a learning experience."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.