One mistake by Minor proves costly in loss to Phils
Lefty blanks Philly for six, but gives up go-ahead homer in seventh
PHILADELPHIA -- On a night when runs were at a premium, Braves starter Mike Minor had to be close to perfect to secure a win at Citizens Bank Park.
Through 6 2/3 innings, he nearly was. But Phillies rookie third baseman Cody Asche hit a go-ahead two-run home run off Minor in the seventh to hand the Braves a 2-1 loss Friday night. Minor worked seven innings, allowing just four hits and striking out nine, but it wasn't enough for the win against Cliff Lee.
Despite the loss, the Braves' magic number dropped to nine to clinch the National League East as the Marlins beat the second-place Nationals, 7-0, in Miami.
"That was a good pitching matchup," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Not many good swings. I thought Chris Johnson's ball went to the deepest part of the ballpark and we didn't get anything. I thought [Brian McCann's] ball had a chance and didn't go anywhere. Other than that, there was nothing much going on either way."
That had as much if not more to do with the pitching than it did with either offense. Minor was in postseason form and Lee, well, was Lee.
"You have to get to [Lee] early," said McCann, who went 0-for-2 and was hit by a pitch. "You can't let him get in a groove. We knew it was going to be a pitchers' duel.
"That's the standard for him. When he gets locked in, there are not many better pitchers in the game. The way he dissects a lineup is second to none. Unfortunately, tonight he was locked in from pitch one."
With two outs in the seventh and holding a 1-0 lead, Minor surrendered a single to Darin Ruf through the left side of the infield. Asche, who has six two-hit performances in his last eight games, drove Minor's first offering into the right-field stands for a 2-1 lead. That was enough for Lee, who went eight innings and struck out 10 in his 12th win.
"It looked like [Minor] made one mistake to Asche there, kind of like I made one mistake to [Andrelton] Simmons in the third," Lee said. "Yeah, it was definitely a well pitched game on both sides and it came down to one swing of the bat."
Lee allowed just a two-out single to Johnson in the second as both pitchers seized early control. Lee's only mistake came against Simmons, who hit a 0-1 pitch into the left-field stands -- his 14th home run of the year -- for a 1-0 lead in the third.
"He made one mistake and I hit it," Simmons said. "After that I didn't see anything."
The reality of the night was simple, with the exception of Minor's last third of an inning. Minor had little trouble with a Phillies lineup that has sputtered much of the season. The 25-year-old lefty, who had given up 15 earned runs over his last five starts in 28 2/3 innings for a 4.71 ERA, allowed just a second-inning walk to Ruf over the first three innings.
"I felt really good," Minor said. "I felt really good and I was making my pitches. Just happened to [give up a single to Ruf with two outs]. You can never do that and then the home run.
"I had a good bullpen. I came out there and was attacking all the hitters. I had all my pitches and kind of just brain lapsed [on Asche] and went after him again. I threw one over the middle of the plate. I guess you could say I had one mistake tonight, but the reality is I had more than one. They just didn't capitalize on it."
The first hit Minor allowed was to Jimmy Rollins, who hit a popup to short right in the fourth in front of a sliding Justin Upton, but was thrown out at second by Upton when he tried to stretch the single into a double.
Lee -- the first left-handed Phillies starter to take the mound after 13 straight righties -- kept the Braves on their heels. Lee didn't issue a walk, and of his 103 pitches, 72 were strikes.
"We got three hits total and they got four," Gonzalez said. "It's good pitching.
"I don't think it would have mattered if we had seen eight left-handers in a row. They were both throwing strikes with all of their pitches. In and out. In on right-handers. I want to say it's the most times I've seen a right-hander strike out looking against a left-hander -- both ways. [We'll] go get them tomorrow."