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Minor a major pain for Mets in Braves' win

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- The Atlanta Braves know Mike Minor can pitch.

But the power hitter part? That's just a nice bonus.

Minor did it all for the Braves Saturday, when he struck out a season-high 10 in 7 1/3 shutout innings and hit a two-run homer to begin a five-run fifth in the Braves' 6-0 win over the New York Mets in front of a windswept announced crowd of 27,622 at Citi Field.

"He did a nice job -- he did a good job pitching and also helping himself out with the bat," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He did a nice job starting out that fifth inning with two outs and putting a big number up."

Minor allowed just three hits and one walk and allowed only one runner as far as second base in leading the Braves (30-18) to their eighth straight win. Their seventh win came earlier in the afternoon, when they scored two 10th-inning runs to beat the Mets 7-5 in the completion of Friday night's suspended game.

The sterling performance on the mound is nothing new for Minor, who is turning into just the latest homegrown pitching star for a franchise that has been churning out top-of-the-rotation arms for a generation. Minor began his career 13-11 with a 5.27 ERA in his first 40 games (39 starts) but is 12-6 with a 2.29 ERA in 24 starts since the All-Star break last season.

"He's been fun to watch growing up," Gonzalez said of Minor, whom the Braves selected in the first round of the 2009 draft out of Vanderbilt. "The Atlanta Braves organization gives us those guys. We put them in the fifth [rotation spot] there and we win, we compete, we're a playoff contending team and we still develop our young pitchers."

The hitting, on the other hand, hasn't been expected, even if Gonzalez calls Minor one of the best athletes on the team. Minor entered Saturday with just eight hits and no RBI in 108 career at-bats, but he singled in the third inning for the Braves' first hit before homering around the left field foul pole.

"Streaky kind of guy," Minor said with a grin.

Minor and Mets starter Dillon Gee were locked in a scoreless pitcher's duel until the fifth, when Gee retired the first two batters he faced before the Braves strung together six straight hits. Chris Johnson singled and Minor hit a 2-1 pitch to left that just stayed fair for his first homer since high school.

"That was the first ball, I think, of the year [that] I barreled up," Minor said. "It was kind of like a blur, really."

As much as Minor enjoyed rounding the bases, he said he wasted little time in the dugout refocusing on his pitching.

"'Mac' [catcher Brian McCann], when I came back in, he was like 'That's great and everything, but we need to go back out there and pitch,'" Minor said. "We really didn't try to live in that moment of the home run. It was fun, but I knew I had to go back out there."

Minor's homer proved to be more than enough, but the Braves piled on with three more runs against Gee.

Andrelton Simmons followed Minor with a double and scored on Jason Heyward's single to right. Justin Upton fouled off several two-strike pitches before doubling past a diving David Wright to bring home Heyward.

Freddie Freeman's single on a 3-2 pitch scored Upton to cap the outburst.

Freeman added an RBI single in the seventh for the final margin. Simmons, Johnson and Justin Upton also had two hits apiece.

The feeble Mets fell to 17-29 with their fifth straight loss overall and their eighth straight at Citi Field. The Mets have scored four runs or less 17 times in their last 19 games.

Ruben Tejada had three singles for the Mets and Lucas Duda singled in the second to extend his hitting streak to nine games.

Gee allowed eight hits and no walks while striking out four as he failed to pitch beyond the fifth for the fifth straight time.

"I don't know what it is, but he's had a tough time getting out of the fifth inning," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "And that's not the Dillon Gee we know. The Dillon Gee we know is a guy when he's cruising, you can just write it down: He's going to give you seven innings.

"And for some reason, that third time thru the lineup has gotten to him this year."

NOTES: Gonzalez was the Florida Marlins' manager when they were part of the first suspended game played under Major League Baseball's revamped rules in 2007. Prior to that, official games that were suspended with the score tied were replayed from the beginning, but all stats from the games counted. The Marlins lost to the Brewers 3-2 in a game that began on Apr. 10 but wasn't completed, due to rain, until the next day. "I think it's a great rule," Gonzalez said. "I know the minor leagues have had it for a long time. It only makes sense. To start over, you don't have enough pitching, you don't have enough players." ... Braves right-handed pitcher Brandon Beachy made his first rehab start for Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday and allowed two runs, two hits and three walks in four innings. Beachy underwent Tommy John surgery last June 21. ... The slumping B.J. Upton, who had a squeeze-bunt RBI during the completion of Friday's game, sat for Saturday's scheduled game, which allowed the Braves to start Evan Gattis in left field. B.J. Upton is hitting just .151 in 152 at-bats. ... Another player in a terrible slump, the Mets' Ike Davis, also didn't start Saturday night. Davis had a single in the 10th inning earlier Saturday -- just his second hit in his last 43 at-bats -- but wasn't going to start against the left-handed Minor. Davis pinch-hit in the ninth inning and struck out on three pitches.
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