The Atlanta Braves will face a tough decision when one of their pitchers returns from injury in the near future, but it's hard to imagine Mike Minor being removed from the rotation.
Looking to stay unbeaten against NL opponents, Minor tries for a sixth consecutive victory as the slumping Braves try to avoid a season-worst fifth consecutive loss Saturday against the visiting San Francisco Giants.
Already three wins away from matching his career high set last season, Minor (8-2, 2.44 ERA) has thrived in his fourth year in the majors. The left-hander, whose only two losses came against Kansas City and Detroit, is 7-0 with a 1.94 ERA over 10 starts against the NL.
Minor has been especially good over his last seven starts overall, going 5-0 with a 1.76 ERA while striking out 47 over 46 innings. He turned in another solid showing Sunday, allowing one run and six hits over six innings during an 8-1 road win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"It's just a friendly competition among everybody. You always want to top the guy before you," he said of the Braves' rotation, which ranks fifth in all of baseball with a 3.44 ERA.
Despite those impressive numbers, Atlanta is looking to create a spot in the rotation with Brandon Beachy (Tommy John surgery) expected back soon. Originally on track to return Tuesday, Beachy will instead be held out a little bit longer after feeling some soreness.
Considered a candidate to move to the bullpen when Beachy returns, Kris Medlen was outpitched Friday by San Francisco's Madison Bumgarner, who combined with Sandy Rosario to three-hit Atlanta in a 6-0 win.
The Braves (39-28), who have totaled five runs in their last three games, have gone 4 for 25 with runners in scoring position during their skid. Jason Heyward was hitting .395 during a 10-game hitting streak before going 0 for 4 Friday.
"Right from the very beginning we go down 1-0 and they added some runs, which probably made (Bumgarner) even tougher to face," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Our bats didn't look very good."
The Giants (35-31), meanwhile, are heating up, plating 42 runs in their last six games after totaling eight in their previous six.
Gregor Blanco went 2 for 5 with two RBIs and Buster Posey added three hits and scored twice Friday for San Francisco, which is 12-16 since May 14 despite winning four of six.
"We're coming up on the second half here," Bumgarner said. "If we want to make a playoff push, I think everybody knows it's time to turn it around."
San Francisco now turns to Chad Gaudin (2-1, 2.32), who's won both his starts since transitioning to the rotation. After allowing two runs and four hits over six innings during a 4-2 victory at St. Louis on June 2, Gaudin gave up two runs and five hits in six innings to beat Arizona 6-2 on Sunday.
Gaudin has struck out 12 during those outings while issuing one free pass, an intentional walk.
"It's letting the hitter know that you're not going to pitch around him," he told MLB's official website. "It makes for a better game."
Gaudin is 0-1 with a 7.78 ERA over 13 games - one start - versus Atlanta. He's had a rough time against Dan Uggla, who's 4 for 12 with two homers and a double in their matchups. Gaudin, though, has held the Upton brothers to a combined three hits in 28 at-bats.
Justin Upton is hitting .190 with just one homer and two RBIs over his last 16 games, and B.J. Upton is hitting a major league-worst .159 after going 0 for his last 8.