Minor's rocky start sets tone in lopsided affair

Lefty stung by two homers in five innings; Braves surrender 20 hits

Minor's rocky start sets tone in lopsided affair

SAN DIEGO -- There was certainly reason for Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez to be mentally drained and angered at the conclusion of Friday night's 10-1 loss to the Padres. Over the previous three hours he had watched his players make multiple mental mistakes and show their frustration in a disrespectful fashion.

While attempting to comprehend what had transpired during what was one of the ugliest losses the Braves have recently suffered, there was reason to wonder if the tone of the night might have been different had it not been set by the sinking Mike Minor, who has struggled to the point where the Braves have to at least debate whether they can afford to continue sending him to the mound every five days.

"We finished the game 15 minutes ago," Gonzalez said when asked that very question about Minor. "There are a lot of things we need to sort through and talk about. We've got a couple days off coming up next week. I've had other stuff on my mind other than that right now."

Gonzalez had to wonder how his club had surrendered a season-high 20 hits to a Padres club that has scored the fewest runs in the Majors this year but the most in the National League since the All-Star break. He also had to think about how his offense showed much less fight while recording four hits than David Hale did when he rudely shooed trainer Jeff Porter away during a three-run seventh inning.

Or maybe he was wondering how his club could be in the midst of a four-game losing streak and still be just 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Nationals, who have lost four of their past five. Whatever the case, there was no way he could actually be ignoring the issue surrounding Minor, whose latest clunker was marred by the two two-run home runs he surrendered to rookie first baseman Tommy Medica.

"It's been frustrating all year," said Minor , who allowed five runs in five innings. "I'm just trying to battle. Tonight, Roger came out there and asked, 'Are you going to battle through this?' I said, 'Yes, I'm not giving up.' But it's going to be week to week I guess. I can't really get a rhythm."

Since posting a 3.07 ERA through seven starts this season, Minor has produced a 7.33 ERA in the 10 starts that have followed. In the process of constructing this ugly stretch, he has not come close to resembling the pitcher he was when he compiled a 2.90 ERA over the 47 starts made from July 5, 2012, through the end of last year.

Minor said he understood that his struggles might prompt the club to remove him from the rotation and possibly even send him to Triple-A Gwinnett, where he might at least have a chance to get right for September.

"It's a business, I understand that," Minor said. "We're in a pennant race. It's winding down, the last third of the season. We can't be giving up games with me going out and pitching like that."

Multiple scouts have opined that Minor is injured. But the 26-year-old hurler has disagreed with this assessment. In fact, he hasn't mentioned any ailments since he batted a cranky shoulder during the middle of February and then found himself a month behind in Spring Training.

Minor has now allowed 1.65 home runs per nine innings. To put that into perspective, Padres starter Eric Stults entered Friday night's matchup having surrendered the Majors' second-highest rate (1.63). Of course, Stults also entered the contest with a 5.22 ERA. But that number did not seem to matter as he started the contest with three perfect innings and surrendered just two hits -- both to Chris Johnson -- in 6 1/3 innings. Johnson's fourth-inning single accounted for the only run tallied by the Braves, who actually produced a better attack 24 hours earlier against a dominant Clayton Kershaw.

Though he was visibly agitated, Gonzalez said he fought the temptation to tear into his club, especially after they had played a pair of crisp games while suffering tough-luck losses to the Dodgers duo of Kershaw and Zack Greinke the previous two nights.

"I think everybody is a little upset about the way we played," Gonzalez said. "Tomorrow, I think I'll circle around and talk to some of the guys that we need to talk to. It's hard to get on a team after the kind of series you played against the Dodgers. It was one of the best series we have played. We lost three games, but it was not that bad. The intensity was there. So for you to come in tonight after a game that was not that well played and have a closed-door meeting and yell and scream, I don't think that's the time."

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