Minor takes tough loss as bats can't come through
Whiffs eight in first complete game, but Johnson robbed of tying HR
CHICAGO -- It was one of those games that baseball's schedule does a good job of erasing from memory, which is about the only thing the Braves have to be thankful for on their way to New York.
Despite outhitting the White Sox by four and creating multiple opportunities to surge ahead, they came out on the losing end of a 3-1 game Sunday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field that gave the White Sox the series win -- Chicago's third straight series victory against Atlanta going back to 2004.
Making it even tougher to swallow was the performance of starter Mike Minor, who pitched his first career complete game and took the loss.
"It's a cruel game at times, our game," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Mikey probably pitched the best game of the year and he got nothing. He got an 'L.' That's all he got and that's a shame. That's the way our game is."
Minor wasn't the only one who felt the sting. Reed Johnson did, too. He hit a line shot in the second that was snared by shortstop Alexei Ramirez and turned into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded -- and then had a potential game-tying home run in the eighth robbed by Casper Wells' leaping, highlight-reel catch.
"I knew the ball was traveling pretty good all weekend, so when I hit it I was kind of begging for it to get up," Johnson said. "I didn't crush it, but obviously in that situation I would assume, in the eighth inning, he's playing pretty deep almost in 'no doubles' [position] anyway. So, that made it a little easier play for him. I hit that ball earlier in the game, it's probably a homer because he's probably playing me a lot shallower. It was kind of everything."
Minor (9-5) did exactly what his bullpen needed him to do, too. Pitching a day after the 'pen threw five innings in Paul Maholm's injury-shortened outing on Saturday, Minor lasted eight innings and gave up just two earned runs among the three Chicago scored.
He also had to deal with a catcher change in the fourth. Gerald Laird left the game in the top of the fourth after getting hit in the left hand with a pitch by White Sox starter Jose Quintana -- later diagnosed as a bruise -- which meant Evan Gattis switched from left field to catcher.
"We did a mini-scouting report right before we went out there and then every inning we came right back in and we would go over it again, because he didn't know what was thrown the first time through the lineup," Minor said. "The second time through the lineup, we didn't want to use the same sequences."
Whatever they came up with worked. Chicago only got one more hit against Minor the rest of the game. Meanwhile, the Braves couldn't break the game open against Quintana despite several chances. They stranded nine runners between the second and fifth innings, and left the bases loaded in the second and third.
Jason Heyward did not start for the sixth straight game while recovering from a right hamstring strain, but that wasn't the reason the offense only scored one run. That was more about Quintana being able to wiggle out of some sticky situations largely unscathed.
"It was incredible," he said through his interpreter. "These things, they don't happen all the time. And the fact they happened today when I needed them, I got the help from very good defense today. I'm very happy to have it, because more importantly the team won."
The Braves finally scratched out a run in the fifth, when Quintana started having difficulty with cramping in his leg, but that was all they could muster. Gattis drove in the run with an RBI single off Quintana -- who stayed in the game and closed out the inning by getting Dan Uggla to fly out with two runners on base.
Quintana retired the first two hitters to start the sixth before experiencing more cramping. He walked Andrelton Simmons one pitch after a mound visit by White Sox manager Robin Ventura and was removed from the game.
Chicago manufactured runs in the first, third and sixth against Minor. He struck out eight and walked two. Simmons' fielding error in the sixth on Adam Dunn's ground ball hit into the defensive shift to the right side caused Minor's last run allowed to be unearned.
Ramon Troncoso, Donnie Veal, Nate Jones and Addison Reed combined to preserve the win for Quintana, who's won two of his last three starts. At one point this season, Quintana didn't get a decision from June 1-July 4 -- a span of seven straight starts.
It nearly happened again in the eighth, but Wells' leaping catch near the top of the fence kept Johnson from tying it.
"Honestly, after coming in and watching the game and even after the first couple innings, you would've thought we would've won this game," Laird said. "We had so many opportunities to score, we hit some balls hard and that just goes to show you how important defense is. They made some plays and we hit some balls hard … they just made the plays when they needed to and we just couldn't get that big hit."