Rockies-Braves Preview

The Associated Press

Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez isn't ready to tab Mike Minor the future ace of his banged-up rotation, though the left-hander has certainly pitched that way as of late.

Tyler Chatwood has performed well enough to earn that distinction for the Colorado Rockies.

Minor will try to help the Braves win their sixth in a row Wednesday night when they take on Chatwood and the visiting Rockies.

Atlanta's lineup has led the way in the first two games of this series, as All-Star Freddie Freeman hit two home runs and Brian McCann added a three-run shot in Tuesday's 11-3 victory.

The Braves (62-45), a major league-best 36-15 at home, moved 10 games ahead of second-place Washington in the NL East.

With 20 runs and 26 hits in this set, the Braves are averaging 7.8 runs and hitting .311 while winning four of five in the season series.

They've also gone 9 for 22 with runners in scoring position in their last two games and are hitting .395 (17 for 43) in those situations during the winning streak.

"We've had a tough time staying away from the big inning first two games of this series," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "We've got to put innings away, we've got to put games away."

That could prove critical considering Colorado (51-57) isn't likely to be headed for a big day at the plate against Minor (10-5, 2.89 ERA).

Minor has found a groove, going 2-1 with a 1.91 ERA in his last four outings. He outpitched St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright on Friday, limiting the Cardinals to one run and four hits over seven innings in a 4-1 win.

Gonzalez, however, doesn't want to put any extra pressure on Minor by calling him the ace with veterans Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm out with injuries.

"He's been this good for a while," Gonzalez said. "We saw him growing up and getting better and better about this time last year. Let's let him dictate his own career and let's not start putting labels yet."

Minor gave up three runs in six innings to beat the Rockies 4-3 on April 23. He's 2-0 with a 5.50 ERA in three starts against Colorado.

Michael Cuddyer is 3 for 4 with a home run and double against Minor, and the right fielder is 5 for 12 with four RBIs in his last three games.

Teammate Nolan Arenado has homered in the first two games of this series and is 9 for 23 (.391) over his last six.

The slumping Rockies hope to avoid their seventh loss in 10 games by giving the ball to Chatwood (7-3, 2.48).

The right-hander is 3-1 with a 1.95 ERA in his last four starts and has allowed two runs or fewer in 12 of his 14 outings. He struck out a career-high 11 while yielding two runs over seven innings in an 8-3 win over Milwaukee on Friday.

Chatwood, though, is 1-1 with a 5.63 ERA in three starts against the Braves. He allowed five runs and nine hits over six innings versus Atlanta in his season debut April 24, a 6-5 win for the Rockies in 12 innings.

Chatwood's .345 batting average ranks second in baseball among pitchers with at least 29 at-bats. He went 1 for 2 with an RBI against Atlanta in April.