Published Saturday, September 29, 2012
BY GEORGE HENRY
ATLANTA (AP) – Mike Minor wasn't sure if he will have another turn in the rotation, so he wanted to end the regular season impressively.
Minor pitched 6 1-3 sharp innings to win his fifth straight decision, Martin Prado and Jason Heyward each had an RBI and the Atlanta Braves beat the New York Mets 2-0 on Saturday night.
"I had a lot of nerves tonight," he said. "I don't think it was because of the crowd. It was like, 'OK, this could possibly be my last start.' I don't know if I'll start again. I might come out of the bullpen, where ever they need me."
Chipper Jones, who played his next-to-last regular-season game at Turner Field, was hitless in four at-bats.
Craig Kimbrel earned his 41st save of in 44 chances with a scoreless but shaky ninth.
The Braves have won six of seven and 11 of 15, but they are four games behind Washington in the National League East with four games to play. Washington beat St. Louis 6-4 in 10 innings on Saturday night.
One more Washington victory or Atlanta loss will eliminate the Braves from the division race and they will host a wild-card playoff game next Friday.
"Tonight was a good team win because we had a lot of guys come out of the bullpen, Martin had a couple big hits, we played some defense," Minor said. "We got the win tonight and also I'm not even anymore. I've got a winning record."
In the ninth, leadoff batter Ruben Tejada reached against Kimbrel on second baseman Dan Uggla's fielding error and advanced to second on a wild pitch before pinch-hitter Daniel Murphy flew out.
Kimbrel, one of the majors' hardest throwers, hit David Wright in the groin area. The ball ricocheted off Wright and hit home-plate umpire Paul Nauert in the mask. Trainers had to tend to both Wright and Nauert, who both stayed in the game.
Kimbrel settled down to strike out pinch-hitter Ike Davis and Lucas Duda to end it.
Wright, who confirmed that an 88 mph slider hit him in a sensitive spot, was glad Kimbrel didn't throw his fastball, which hit 100 mph two pitches earlier.
"I'm lucky that he hit me with a slider," Wright said. "A fastball would've been a different story, obviously. Now I know what those catchers have to go through on a regular basis. I've got a little more respect for them now."
Minor (11-10) allowed three hits, no walks and struck out four, leaving after Wright's double in the seventh.
Chad Durbin got the second out of the inning on Scott Hairston's flyout. Luis Avilan balked on his first pitch to Duda, advancing Wright to third, before Duda struck out.
Prado leads the NL and ranks second in the majors with 60 multi-hit games.
Atlanta went ahead 1-0 in the first when Prado hit a one-out double, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on Jason Heyward's RBI groundout.
In the third, Andrelton Simmons lined a leadoff single to left, moved to second on Minor's sacrifice bunt, and scored on Prado's two-out RBI double off the wall in left-center.
Minor, who allowed just two singles through six innings, improved to 4-0 with a 0.87 ERA over his last four starts, a span of 31 innings. The left-hander is 5-0 in his last seven starts.
In six career starts against the Mets, Minor is 3-1 and with a 6.03 ERA over 31 1-3 innings.
"I think the turning point of his season was the game against the Yankees at home," Braves catcher Brian McCann said. "He came out and attacked them and trusted his stuff. I think once he got through the Yankees and showed himself he can do that, he can get through anything."
Chris Young (4-9) gave up seven hits, two runs and one walk with six strikeouts in six innings. The Mets have scored just four runs in his last four starts.
"In his last two starts, his velocity climbed," New York manager Terry Collins said. "It was up 3 to 4 mph, which I was very impressed with. He gets himself ready to pitch as well as anyone I've been around. Makes mistakes once and while but for the most part, he executes his pitches."
Jonny Venters allowed two singles in a scoreless eighth for Atlanta.
Elvin Ramirez pitched a scoreless seventh and Ramon Ramirez did the same in the eighth for New York, which has 85 losses, the same number as last season.
Kimbrel lowered his ERA to 1.02 and has 113 strikeouts in 61 1-3 innings.
"That quality of arm, you won't see many like that, and that arm angle he throws from is very, very deceptive," Collins said. "It's very hard to pick up. He throws both of his pitches for strikes. And when it's (letters high), there's not many guys that can get on top of that pitch. There's no doubt he's one of the best in the league."
Notes: Jones has gone hitless with three walks in his last 13 at-bats. ... Manager Fredi Gonzalez said the Braves will have three starting pitchers (RHP Kris Medlen, Tim Hudson and either LHPs Minor or Paul Maholm) with seven relievers and three catchers on the 25-man roster if they host a wild-card game. ... Gonzalez said Venters pitched the eighth because LHP Eric O'Flaherty has a stiff back and wasn't available. ...SS Simmons ran into center field to make a diving catch to rob Wright of a single in the fourth. ... Braves CF Michael Bourn missed his sixth straight game with a sprained left thumb. ... Atlanta will try to win Medlen's 23rd straight start on Sunday. Medlen (9-1) will pitch opposite RHP Jenrry Mejia (1-1). ... Mets manager Terry Collins said before the game that Wright will get Sunday off. ... Prado's double was his 41st, fifth-most in the NL. ... Avilan has allowed just four earned runs over his last 25 appearances.
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