Makeshift outfield comes through for Braves in win
BRAVES 5, REDS 2
By CHARLES ODUM
ATLANTA — Mike Minor took advantage of support from unexpected sources – a combined seven hits by three fill-in outfielders and, in an even bigger surprise, his own two-run double.
Minor struggled early before recovering to throw seven strong innings, and also hit a go-ahead double that led the Atlanta Braves over Homer Bailey and the Cincinnati Reds 5-2 Saturday.
The Braves, who lost starting outfielders Jason Heyward, B.J. Upton and Justin Upton to injuries in the first two games of the series, found success with their fill-ins. Jose Constanza, recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett, started in left field and hit leadoff with Reed Johnson in center and rookie Joey Terdoslavich in right.
The patchwork outfield combined for seven hits, including three by Constanza.
“I feel bad for them to be hurt,” Constanza said through a translator. “It’s a bad way to be called up, but I was ready to come up here and help the team win.”
Brian McCann and Dan Uggla hit home runs, but the second-string outfielders stole the show.
“I think Vegas lost a lot of money today when they saw our lineup,” said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. “But you know what, you can’t judge and you can’t handicap heart.”
Minor’s two-run double in the fifth inning gave Atlanta a 3-2 lead and provided the pitcher a rare opportunity to brag about his batting skills, even though he was hitting only .086 before the at-bat.
“Oh yeah, every time I go up there I think I’m going to hit the ball,” Minor said with a slight smile.
“No, actually I thought it was a fastball and it was a slider.”
Minor (9-4) snapped a streak of five straight starts without a win. The left-hander allowed two runs on six hits and one walk – including only one hit in his last five innings.
Minor’s two-run double in the fifth gave the Braves a 3-2 lead.
Bailey (5-8) lost his second straight start since throwing his second career no-hitter on July 2. He faded after being given an early 2-0 lead, allowing four runs on 10 hits in six innings.
Bailey said he was hurt by infield singles and ground balls, including Minor’s double, that skipped down the line.
“It was just one of those days,” Bailey said. “It just seems like I’ve had a lot of one-of-those days.”
Minor appeared headed toward a short outing when he threw 51 pitches in the first two innings. He gave up singles to Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto and walked Brandon Phillips to load the bases with one out in the first. Minor escaped by striking out Jay Bruce and ending the inning on Todd Frazier’s liner to third base.
“It’s disheartening to see it happening over and over again,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said of the wasted scoring opportunity. “(Minor) wasn’t sharp. We had him on the ropes and then we came out with nothing. His pitch count was high, then he settled down in the middle innings and was extremely tough on us.”
The Reds took a 2-0 lead in the second. Zack Cozart tripled, Chris Heisey doubled and Choo hit an RBI single.
Minor then recorded 11 consecutive outs, providing his teammates an opportunity to rally.
After McCann’s 12th homer in the fourth, the Braves took the lead with two runs in the fifth. Johnson singled, Terdoslavich hit his first career double and Minor followed with a sharp grounder down the left-field line that drove in both runners.
Constanza hit an RBI single in the sixth. Uggla hit his 17th homer off Alfredo Simon in the seventh.
Braves reliever Luis Avilan walked Votto and gave up a single to Phillips with two outs in the eighth. Bruce ended the inning with a fly ball.
Craig Kimbrel struck out Frazier, Cozart and pinch-hitter Xavier Paul in the ninth for his 26th save.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said before the game he is confident Heyward can recover from his strained right hamstring by resting through the All-Star break. Gonzalez said the “trickiest” injury is Justin Upton’s left calf strain. He said calf injuries can be nagging.
B.J. Upton, who has strained right adductor (upper leg, inside), said he felt “a little better” Saturday but couldn’t predict if he expects to be ready after the All-Star break.
The Braves plan to delay decisions on possibly placing the Upton brothers on the disabled list until after the break.
NOTES: Minor earned his first win since June 9 at Dodger Stadium. ... Choo has an 11-game hitting streak. ... The Braves optioned LHP Alex Wood to Triple-A Gwinnett. He is expected to be recalled after the All-Star break. ... The Reds had been 4-0 in Bailey’s first four starts against the Braves, including a 5-4 win on May 7. ... The four-game series ends Sunday when Reds rookie LHP Tony Cingrani faces RHP Julio Teheran.