Major League Baseball

Upton homers, Minor pitches Braves past Cubs

by George Henry, The Associated Press


AP Photo/Butch Dill

Atlanta Braves' Justin Upton hits a run in on a sacrifice fly against the Chicago Cubs during the third inning on Friday.

ATLANTA (AP) — Mike Minor had a 6.26 ERA during spring training. But in his first regular-season start, he looked just like the dominant pitcher who ended 2012.

"With spring training not going as well, I still had that confidence," Minor said. "I guess that was a big part of it tonight."

Minor pitched into the eighth inning and Justin Upton hit his third homer in four games to help the Atlanta Braves beat the Chicago Cubs 4-1 on Friday night.

Juan Francisco had a two-run single and Minor (1-0) won his first start of the season, allowing one run and five hits in 7 1-3 innings. He walked none and struck out seven.

Eric O'Flaherty got two outs in the eighth and Craig Kimbrel threw eight pitches in a perfect ninth for his second save.

Making his Cubs debut, Scott Feldman (0-1) threw two wild pitches, hit a batter and had a fielding error in the fourth when he missed the bag in an attempt to cover first base.

Feldman gave up four runs, five hits and four walks in 4 2-3 innings. He struck out one.

Upton's shot gave the Braves a 1-0 lead in the first. His sacrifice fly in the third drove in Andrelton Simmons to make it 2-0.

"It's even fun to see him hit in the cage," Simmons said. "You just watch and try to pick up stuff from him. He's really talented, and he has a nice swing. Everything is nice and smooth. He's going to do this all year."

Feldman could only blame himself for the second run. He issued a leadoff walk to Simmons, who stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch.

"I had a little trouble with my command tonight," Feldman said, "and they got into some deep counts and made me throw a lot of pitches."

Minor's one costly mistake came when Scott Hairston led off the fifth with a homer, his first, to make it 2-1.

Since the beginning of September last year, Minor is 5-0 with a 0.94 ERA in six starts. He also improved to 5-0 in five career starts against the Cubs.

The first month of the season had been a problem for Minor, drafted seventh overall in 2009. The left-hander began Friday with a 2-3 record and 5.35 career ERA in six April starts.

Minor rediscovered his command in the second half last year, however, and his 2.10 ERA since the All-Star break trails only teammate Kris Medlen and Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best in the majors.

"I'm not going to say I'm going to have a game like this every time," Minor said. "But I had the confidence coming into the season that I was going to attack the hitters like I did last year and throw more breaking balls."

Francisco used an inside-out swing with one out in the fifth to drive the ball into left field for a two-run single that made it 4-1.

That hit chased Feldman, who threw balls on 49 of his 102 pitches. Michael Bowden ended the inning on rookie Evan Gattis' groundout.

Bowden faced the minimum over the next 2 1-3 innings. Hector Rondon faced four batters in the eighth.

Feldman, who spent his first eight seasons with Texas, is 0-6 with a 6.85 ERA over his last nine starts.

NOTES: New center fielder B.J. Upton reached base for the first time with the Braves when Feldman hit him with a pitch in the fifth. B.J. Upton, who is 0 for 14 with nine strikeouts this season, advanced to second on his first steal for Atlanta and scored on Francisco's single. ... Gattis went 3 for 4 and was the only player on either team with more than one hit. ... Cubs SS Starlin Castro appeared in his 200th consecutive game, the NL's longest active streak. ... Before the game, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Braves GM Frank Wren came to his office and asked that he keep Chicago players off the field while Atlanta was still taking batting practice. Some of the Cubs' relievers were loosening up in left field with a few minutes left in the Braves' allotted practice time. Sveum said he quickly obliged. "Realistically, two teams can't be on the field at the same time, but obviously we all know at the end of (batting practice) that everybody always goes and throws and pretty much everybody's work is done," Sveum said. "The BP times got all goofed up, that's part of it. Why all that happened, anyway."

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