Minor dazzles, Gattis provides big blow as Braves win
Lefty retires 16 batters in a row, allows three hits in 6 2/3 innings
SAN FRANCISCO -- After having a chance to analyze and digest the miserable outing he had against the Cardinals last week, Mike Minor realized he had only himself to blame for throwing an overabundance of fastballs.
As Minor made amends in impressive fashion against the Giants on Tuesday night, the Braves slumbering offense showed some signs of life during a 5-0 win that was fueled by Evan Gattis' first career triple and the hustle Jason Heyward showed during a three-run sixth inning.
"It was a team win," Heyward said. "Pitching was solid. But here, you're always on edge because you feel like they can put together one good inning and get back in the game."
Gattis' fourth-inning RBI triple provided all of the necessary support for Minor, who scattered three hits over 6 2/3 scoreless innings. But some much welcomed comfort came courtesy of the three-run sixth inning that might not have been experienced had Heyward not completed a heads-up trip around the bases with an impressive slide that eluded Buster Posey, the Giants catcher who is synonymously linked to the new rule that prohibits home-plate collisions.
"It was a reaction," Heyward said. "It's not the way you draw it up. I by no means would like to try it again with me running for home and the ball flying in from right field that far ahead of me. It's just a hustle play and it worked out."
Heyward singled to begin the sixth and then set the tone for the inning when he tagged and went to second base when Angel Pagan secured Justin Upton's fly ball in right-center field. Freddie Freeman followed with a sharp single to right field that prompted third-base coach Doug Dascenzo to wave Heyward to the plate.
Hunter Pence's throw to the plate beat Heyward by more than 10 feet. But the Braves right fielder sneaked around and under Giants catcher Posey's tag. After San Francisco challenged the play, a replay review confirmed that Heyward had indeed eluded what seemed to be a sure out.
"I had a great view," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I really couldn't see if he got him on the back. I thought he missed him right off the get-go. I don't know how a man [6-foot-5] got himself by Posey on that. But the video showed he did."
Seeing this occur one week after his club suffered a walk-off loss in Pittsburgh when a video review showed Starling Marte eluded a Posey tag, Giants manager Bruce Bochy simply said, "The slides are getting creative."
Heyward's determined trip around the bases gave the Braves a 2-0 lead and helped extend the inning long enough for B.J. Upton and Andrelton Simmons to deliver RBI singles off Ryan Vogelsong, who was charged with four earned runs and seven hits in six innings. The Giants starter had allowed just two runs in the 20 1/3 innings he had totaled in his previous three starts.
On the way to tallying more than three runs for just the third time in their past 15 games, the Braves had some fun when Freeman singled with one out in the fourth inning and then lumbered all the way around the bases when Gattis followed by lining a stand-up triple that caromed off the angled wall in right-center field.
"That must have been the longest triple [in terms of time] it's taken to get to third base," Gonzalez said. "I think Big Papi takes a little longer for home runs. That was a nice [at-bat] there to hit the ball to right-center field."
A pair of Pence doubles and another produced by Hector Sanchez accounted for the only hits surrendered by Minor, who stuck to his plan to be much less predictable than he was when he used his fastball 71 percent of the time while allowing the Cardinals six earned runs in just 4 1/3 innings last week.
Minor consistently located his fastball, which accounted for 56 percent of the 110 pitches he threw during this latest outing against the Giants. As an added bonus, he had command of his three secondary pitches -- a slider, curveball and changeup.
"Not that I executed all [my pitches] all the time," Minor said. "But I felt in any situation and any count, any batter, I felt I could throw whatever."
After Pence produced an opposite-field double in the first inning, Minor retired each of the next 16 batters he faced. His dominant run ended with a Pagan walk that was followed with another Pence double that put runners at second and third base. Posey ended the threat when he accounted for the sixth and final strikeout notched by the Braves southpaw.
"I didn't throw a lot of breaking balls in the last game," Minor said. "Tonight, I felt like I mixed it up pretty well. For the most part, I didn't think they knew what was coming."
This was just the third start of the season for Minor, who began the season behind schedule because of an internal surgical procedure performed in December. But it was reminiscent of many of the ones he made while producing a 2.90 ERA in the 47 starts he made from July 1, 2012 through the end of last year.
"This is what we saw from him last year," Gonzalez said. "Hopefully, he can keep giving us these kind of quality starts."