Home runs, lack of support sting Minor as Braves fall

Lefty serves up two blasts; offense strands seven in quiet showing

Home runs, lack of support sting Minor as Braves fall

ATLANTA -- Mike Minor has proven he is susceptible to going through stretches where he allows home runs with regularity. But that has not made him numb to the frustration felt on those days when he is doomed by a couple of solo shots.

Minor was forced to deal with this fate during Saturday afternoon's 3-1 loss to the Rockies as Michael Cuddyer and Troy Tulowitzki delivered the solo home runs that provided all of the necessary support for Juan Nicasio, who proved effectively wild against a recently vibrant Braves offense.

"It was a battle today and I didn't feel like I had my best stuff," Minor said. "There were a couple defensive plays that kept me in the game. Obviously, the solo shots is what killed us."

On a day where he had little room for error, Minor did not display the same precise command he had in his two most recent starts. The Braves left-hander served up a 3-0 fastball that Cuddyer drilled over the left-center-field wall to begin the second inning and allowed Charlie Culberson, who entered the game hitting .174, to begin the seventh inning with a double that led to an insurance run.

When Tulowitzki began the sixth with a high fly ball that managed to stay just inside the left-field foul pole before landing in the seats, Minor gained more reason to realize this would be one of those days where few things went his way. Still, despite in his inability to consistently command the inner part of the plate against right-handers, he managed to limit the Rockies to three runs on four hits over 6 1/3 innings.

"The two-seamer wasn't running back as much as it usually did in previous games," Minor said. "So, I was missing with that and I was just falling deeper into counts and throw it more over the plate."

B.J. Upton, who has compiled a .458 on-base percentage in his past six games, accounted for two of the four hits recorded by the Braves, who did not dent the scoreboard until Justin Upton greeted Adam Ottavino with a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning.

Upton's RBI scored his older brother, who had singled and advanced to third base on Freddie Freeman's double. Freeman was left stranded when Ottavino struck out Evan Gattis to end the eighth.

"We didn't swing the bats," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We got one run in that eighth inning and we were hopefully going to try to get a couple more. That didn't materialize."

B.J. Upton's third-inning single and Justin Upton's sixth-inning double accounted for the only hits recorded against Nicasio, who tossed six scoreless innings to lower his ERA from 4.03 to 3.61. The Rockies right-hander allowed a career-high eight runs while lasting just four innings when he had last started at Turner Field on July 30 of last season.

"His slider was good for him, but I think it all started with his fastball," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said of Nicasio. "He was able to elevate it at times and get some swings and misses, but he pitched well with his fastball."

The Braves had halted their offensive woes in the process of winning five of their previous six games. But their inability to take advantage of Nicasio's four walks led them to score less than two runs for the 16th time this season and ninth time in their past 25 games. Atlanta's best scoring opportunity against Nicasio came in the second inning when B.J. Upton's first single was sandwiched between two-out walks drawn by Jason Heyward and Freeman. But that threat ended when Justin Upton popped out to first baseman Justin Morneau.

"We had bases loaded early in the game with the right guy at the plate and he wiggled out of them," Gonzalez said. "There wasn't a lot of opportunities. But we had some. When you don't cash in on those opportunities, you get games like this."

This game was reminiscent of the one Minor experienced when a pair of solo home runs also doomed him in his May 2 season debut against the Giants. Seven of the 13 runs the southpaw has allowed this year have come via home runs, five of which have been solo shots.

Minor had nobody to blame but himself for the 3-0 fastball that he left up and over the middle of the plate for Cuddyer in the second inning. It also appeared that he missed Gattis' low target with the 88-mph fastball that Tulowitzki lofted over the left-field wall to begin the sixth inning.

"[On] 3-0, I thought [Cuddyer] might swing, but I was hoping he'd get big and just pop it up or roll over it," Minor said. "I threw it up and out, right where he wanted it. With Tulo, we'd been pounding him in all day and I missed more middle and he got it."

The Rockies added their final run with the help of an overturned replay review. After recording his double to begin the seventh, Culberson was initially ruled out attempting to score from third base on Charlie Blackmon's grounder to Freeman. But during a review that lasted four minutes, 14 seconds, umpires determined Culberson had artfully stayed under Gattis' tag with an elusive headfirst slide.

"I was hoping they didn't have enough evidence to overturn it," Gonzalez said. "But coming back and seeing a different look at it, it was clear and convincing. That was a big run there."

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