Spotless effort by Minor as Braves clobber Rox

Spotless effort by Minor as Braves clobber Rox

ATLANTA -- Energized by the success of the near-flawless series sweep against St. Louis, the Braves have spent the past three days assaulting Colorado's pitching staff, showing they are the dominant juggernaut that they have aspired to be throughout this season.

The offensive contributions in Wednesday night's 9-0 victory proved to be more than enough for Mike Minor, who surrendered just two singles in seven stellar innings.

"I think everybody is just relaxed," Minor said. "Last year and in previous years, I've felt like there's added pressure with us trying to chase a team. Now everybody is chasing us and there's no added pressure. Guys are having fun. Guys are relaxed out there with the bat, and we're relaxed on the mound because of the way we've been playing."

While winning each of the first six games of this homestand, the Braves have gained an 11-game lead over the second-place Nationals in the National League East. More important, they have seen their inconsistent offense assume the appearance of a finely tuned machine.

Since falling behind 5-0 through the first 2 1/2 innings of this series against Colorado, the Braves have outscored the Rockies, 29-6. They have scored at least six runs in an inning each of the past three nights. This marks the first time the Braves have done this in three consecutive games during the live ball era (since 1918).

"This is not the kind of production you're going to get for 162 games," Braves catcher Brian McCann said. "But this is what we're capable of. When we get hot, we're as good of a hitting team as there is in baseball. I hope we keep this momentum going for the rest of the way out."

McCann belted a three-run homer in Tuesday night's victory and then added another in the seven-run third inning that chased Rockies starter Tyler Chatwood on Wednesday. But the performance of the night came from Freddie Freeman, who delivered RBI singles in the first and fourth innings on the way to notching his second career four-hit performance.

Those who have followed Freeman's career closely should not be surprised that he has recorded both of his four-hit games against the Rockies. He has batted .358 with 10 home runs and a 1.263 OPS in 21 career games against Colorado.

"There's no explaining it," Freeman said. "I don't know what it is. I guess I was struggling against St. Louis and we got it clicking a couple of days ago in the video room and the [batting] cage. Unfortunately, the Rockies were the ones [we were playing] when I started clicking again. It seems like I always click against them."

Minor aided Atlanta's 15-hit attack with an RBI single that capped the third-inning uprising. This simply added to the enjoyment as he faced just one more than the minimum and did not allow the Rockies to advance a baserunner past first base during his seven innings.

Since compiling a 4.50 ERA in six starts from June 4 to July 3, Minor has posted a 1.53 ERA in his past five outings. He has gone 18-9 with a 2.54 ERA in 37 starts dating back to July 5, 2012.

"I'm not surprised by any of this," McCann said. "This is what he does. This is who he is. He's a guy who takes the ball and knows exactly what he's trying to accomplish."

While the offense has taken center stage throughout this Rockies series, Atlanta's starting rotation has spent the past week proving that it can persevere in the absence of Tim Hudson, who suffered a season-ending right leg injury last week. The Braves have allowed two runs or fewer in four of the first six games of this homestand. The only two games in which they allowed a higher total were started by rookie Alex Wood, who surrendered three runs in seven strong innings on Tuesday, and Brandon Beachy, who struggled Monday while making his first start following Tommy John surgery.

"[Pitching is] the reason we're where we're at," McCann said. "They keep us in every single ballgame. Our bullpen is lockdown. I think the offense is the last piece that needs to be a little more consistent. I think we're showing we're a dangerous ballclub."

The Braves' lineup has proved to be more fluid since manager Fredi Gonzalez made the much-anticipated decision to move Andrelton Simmons out of the leadoff spot and replace him with Jason Heyward. Time will tell whether it is simply a coincidence that the offense has started to click since this move was made.

But after watching his club compile a .384 on-base percentage and average 6.7 runs through the first six games of this homestand, Gonzalez is not going to tinker with an offense that is starting to live up to expectations.

"We've been clicking on all cylinders, coming out for them early on and keeping it going throughout the game," Freeman said.

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