This week will be a key week to build some momentum going into the All-Star break and to demonstrate that they are still the favorites to win the division, starting with Mike Minor (8-4, 3.15) taking the hill on Monday night with another chance against the Miami Marlins.
Minor has been the Braves’ best starter in the first half of the 2013 MLB season but has struggled in his last four starts — three of which the Braves lost. In those starts, Minor has allowed 15 earned runs in 24 innings to raise his ERA from 2.44 to 3.15.
The Braves need Minor to pitch as he did before these past four starts in what looks to be a key four-game series with the Cincinnati Reds looming over the weekend. Making a habit of losing series against the last-place team, as the Braves did last week, is not a recipe for winning a division. Winning the first game in a series makes the proposition that much easier.
Fortunately for the Braves, the left-hander has been the best “stopper” on the staff this season with a team-high five wins and best ERA (3.52) among starters following a loss. The Braves’ staff has not done its part in stopping losing streaks, with Minor being the only starter with a winning record following a loss. That places extra pressure and importance on the lefty putting on a better performance than his last start against the Marlins.
This is a dangerous week for the Braves, but Minor could take much of the pressure off the team with a clutch performance on Monday.