Mired in his longest losing streak of the year, Mike Minor is hoping to get back on track in his final tuneup before the playoffs.
Facing the punchless Philadelphia Phillies could certainly help his cause.
Minor tries to snap a five-start winless stretch as the Atlanta Braves continue their quest for home-field advantage Saturday night against the visiting Phillies.
Minor (13-8, 3.22 ERA) has been one of the Braves' best pitchers this season, posting career highs and team bests of 175 strikeouts and 198 2-3 innings. The left-hander, though, has followed a 4-0 stretch by going 0-3 with a 4.36 ERA over the last four weeks.
"I don't think it's been great, and I think it shows," said Minor, who has allowed seven homers during his funk. "But it's one of those things that I thought I pitched pretty well all year, but right now I'm kind of struggling a little bit."
Minor saw his woes continue Monday in a 5-0 loss to Milwaukee, yielding three runs on two homers in seven innings.
"I think I'm trying to throw more sinkers in and when I throw four-seamers away or try to go back and forth with them, there's a different release point and I think I'm just leaving the ball up," he said. "They're big-league hitters, so when they see that, they take advantage of it."
Minor gave up two runs and struck out nine over seven innings in a 2-1 loss at Philadelphia on Sept. 6, dropping to 2-3 with a 3.82 ERA in six starts against the Phillies. Carlos Ruiz is 0 for 8 in their matchups, and Jimmy Rollins is 3 for 14.
Minor now tries to help the NL East champions keep pace with St. Louis for the league's best record. Atlanta (95-65), which is tied with the Cardinals, won 1-0 on Friday behind Chris Johnson's eighth-inning homer and a dominant showing from Kris Medlen.
"I just want to take it to the playoffs," Medlen said.
Philadelphia (72-88) has dropped three straight and eight of nine while hitting .207, including .172 with runners in scoring position. After going 0 for 12 in such situations in a 7-1 defeat the night before, the Phillies failed to get a runner past first base Friday.
Philadelphia's Ethan Martin (2-5, 6.32) is expected to return to the rotation Saturday after pitching out of the bullpen for the last 2 1/2 weeks. The right-hander went 2-4 with a 6.90 ERA in seven starts, including two losses to Atlanta.
After giving up six runs over 4 1-3 innings in his big league debut in a 6-4 loss Aug. 2, he surrendered three over five innings in a 3-1 loss in Atlanta on Aug. 13.
Johnson has homered twice in six at-bats in their matchups, and Jason Heyward and Justin Upton are both 3 for 6 with a double.
Evan Gattis is 5 for 29 (.172) against the Phillies this year, though three of those hits were homers.
Atlanta's Dan Uggla struck out three times in as many at-bats Friday, giving him a franchise-record 170. The second baseman, who broke his own mark of 168 set last year, is hitting a major league-worst .179 among qualified players.
Braves catcher Brian McCann missed Friday's game due to tightness near his right groin and could remain out until the division series.
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