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Minor strong in Atlanta win over Chicago

The SportsXchange

ATLANTA -- There's something about the Chicago Cubs that brings out the best in Atlanta Braves pitcher Mike Minor.

The left-hander kept his perfect record intact against the Cubs on Friday, as he allowed only one run in 7 1/3 innings to lead the Braves to a 4-1 win at Turner Field.

Minor was efficient, with 60 of his 84 pitches strikes and he didn't walk a batter.

"I felt good in that last game in spring training and it carried over," said Minor, now 5-0 against the Cubs.

Other than a solo home run by Scott Hairston in the fifth inning, only one other Chicago player reached scoring position. Minor was able to pitch around the home run, which came on a slider that he said "got more of the plate than I wanted."

Minor retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced. He was the beneficiary of three double plays and a couple of nice plays in the field that kept the Cubs off the bases.

"Everybody had a big play for me," Minor said.

Minor was removed with one out in the eighth after he allowed a single to pinch-hitter Dioner Navarro. Eric O'Flaherty struck out Alberto Gonzalez and catcher Evan Gattis threw Navarro out trying to steal second base. Closer Craig Kimbrell pitched a perfect ninth inning on eight pitches to record his second save.

The Braves had only six hits, but they came at the right time. Justin Upton hit a solo home run in the first inning on an 0-and-2 count and drove in Andrelton Simmons with a sacrifice fly in the third. Simmons walked, stole second, reached third on a wild pitch and scored on the long fly to right field.

"That was a nice couple of at-bats by Justin," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez.

But Atlanta's biggest hit came in the fifth inning after Chicago had cut the lead to 2-1 on Hairston's homer. The Braves loaded the bases with two outs and third baseman Juan Francisco sliced a single to left that drove in two runs.

"That was the at-bat of the game for me," Gonzalez said. "That gave us a little wiggle room."

It also marked the end of the night for Chicago starter Scott Feldman, who was making his Cubs debut after signing as a free agent over the winter. Feldman (0-1) was inconsistent from the start, allowing four runs on five hits, four walks, one hit batsman and two wild pitches in 4 2/3 innings.

"He was one pitch away from getting out of that," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "It was his game to win or lose at that point. He could keep it at 2-1 or give it away. Unfortunately, (Francisco) had a good at-bat and ended up looping one into left.

The Cubs bullpen was effective. Michael Bowden and Hector Rondon combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings, with five strikeouts.

Sveum was frustrated by his team's lack of offense. Chicago has scored only seven runs in four games. The top three hitters in the order were 0-for-11 on Friday.

"Nobody is swinging the bat right now," Sveum said. "We're not going to win a whole lot of games unless we start scoring runs."

Notes: Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro appeared in his 200th consecutive game. It is the longest active streak in the National League and second-longest in baseball behind Detroit's Prince Fielder (345). ... Brent Lillibridge got his second start at third base for the Cubs. The former Brave has also started two games at second base and can play first base, shortstop and center field. ... Chicago's Steve Clevenger celebrated his 27th birthday on Friday, but did not earn his first start. ... The Braves stole their first three bases of the season after failing to attempt one in three games against the Phillies. ... The weather was much better at Turner Field on Friday. The temperature at game time was 62 degrees, 20 degrees higher than Thursday's game against Philadelphia. ... In a pregame ceremony, the Braves and Major League Baseball presented the National Center for Civil and Human Rights a check for $100,000 from the 2012 Civil Rights Game.
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