Since arriving from the disabled list in early May, Mike Minor has been incredibly solid for the Atlanta Braves, and the left-hander has re-established himself as one of the game’s best. On Tuesday night, Minor was lambasted in a significant way, but fortunately for both the pitcher and the team, Atlanta’s offense was more than up to the challenge, as they blasted the Colorado Rockies for double-digit runs in a 13-10 victory.
The work of Minor was certainly the biggest blemish in an otherwise beautiful game, and frankly, it was an ugly performance. Mike was staked to a 7-0 lead before ever taking the mound (always a nice favor), but he struggled from the opening pitch, allowing 3 runs in the first inning and never looking back. In the end, Minor managed to navigate 4-plus innings before being removed in favor of long reliever David Hale, but he allowed 8 earned runs on 11 hits (!) and 3 walks for one of the worst starts of his professional career.
Offensively, however, the Braves were lights-out against Juan Nicasio and company. B.J. Upton began the scoring with an RBI triple in the first inning, and when Andrelton Simmons pelted a grand slam to close the opening frame, the 7-0 lead looked to be more than enough. Minor’s struggles managed to make things more interesting than they ever should have been, but when Freddie Freeman and Evan Gattis contributed back-to-back home runs in 4th inning, Atlanta’s run total reached the point of no return.
Gattis put together the single most impressive day at the plate for the Braves, as the catcher finished 3-for-4 with a home run, a walk and 4 runs scored. The power-hitting backstop has amassed an 11-game hitting streak at this stage, and with a league-leading home run total, the segment of Braves Country that bemoaned the loss of Brian McCann has become exceedingly quiet.
In addition to Gattis, the Braves received impressive offensive contributions from a handful of players. Chris Johnson continued his (suddenly) hot hitting with a 3-hit performance, while Tommy La Stella added two more hits (and multiple quality at-bats) and the duo of Simmons and Freeman were able to bank on long-distance bombs.
Mike Minor wasn’t the only negative despite the way the box score played out, as outfielder Justin Upton was forced to leave the game with what the team announced as a hamstring strain. Fortunately, it seems as if Upton will be back shortly after what looked like a minor tweak, but it is never good when a top-tier player exits early.
The return of right-hander Jordan Walden to the bullpen didn’t exactly go swimmingly, either, as he needed 24 pitches to record only one out while allowing three base-runners in the eighth inning. It was the first appearance for Walden in more than a month, and there appeared to be a considerable amount of rust, but the cushion was large enough that Fredi Gonzalez was allowed the luxury of his struggles.
On the whole, this was an utterly explosive night for the offense and an entirely forgettable evening for Mike Minor. There is little reason to suspect that Minor will carry Tuesday’s struggles with him, and while his struggles at Coors Field continue, he has been lights-out in virtually every other venue. Offensively, it is incredibly encouraging to see a barrage of runs on the scoreboard (even at Coors), and if the bats can fully awaken, it will allow for a bit more error from the pitching staff in the coming days.