Braves starter trusts his stuff after shaky first inning in Game 2 of NLDS
ATLANTA -- The workhorse starters of a Major League pitching staff can't consistently force their offense to play from behind, and yet the Braves seem to have settled into an odd familiarity with the first-inning struggles that have tormented Mike Minor, who overcame another early earned run to secure his first postseason victory in Game 2 of the National League Division Series on Friday night.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez has avoided assigning titles or expectations to Minor and his fellow starters, but the left-hander's critical resiliency in the biggest game of his career bought the offense time to settle in against Dodgers starter Zack Greinke, as the Braves posted a 4-3 win to even the series heading to Los Angeles. Game 3 is set for 8 p.m. ET on Sunday on TBS.
"If you ask Mike, he wants to get out of the first inning -- he hates that first inning," said third baseman Chris Johnson. "When he gave up one run in the first inning, I was like, 'All right, he's going to get it dialed in right here,' and that's what he did tonight. He kept us in the ballgame, pitched great and got the win for it."
After grooving a fastball that Hanley Ramirez roped to right for an RBI double to push across the game's first run, Minor frustrated the Dodgers with double plays in consecutive innings and struck out four of eight batters in the fifth and sixth after the Braves had taken the lead. After another Ramirez double in the sixth inning, he struck out Adrian Gonzalez and Juan Uribe within a span of three batters to strand runners on first and third and preserve a slim 2-1 lead.
"It's kind of a blur, but I feel like initially I thought it was one of those first things again where I gave up another run, but I felt like I was pretty close to making some good pitches," Minor said. "I felt really good going into the next inning, and it wasn't like I was still trying to figure stuff out."
"Usually when he settles down like that he's going to give you a good opportunity, he really is, and that's something that he's getting better at," Gonzalez said. "He's maturing as a pitcher. I thought he was terrific, I really did."
Minor has allowed runs in the first inning of his past five starts and posted a 5.62 ERA in the first inning during the regular season, but he distanced himself from a winless September by executing the pitches he had to have in order to keep the Dodgers' rallies from building off one another.
"I felt like the whole time our guys were taking great at-bats, seeing the ball pretty well off of [Greinke]," Minor said. "So when we scored one off of him and tied it back up, I felt like I need to go back out there and have a shutdown inning. Shutdown the rest of the time I'm out there and do the best I could and give our team, give our hitters, a chance to get another one on the board."