Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 4/15/12
Mike Minor wasn't optimistic after the first couple of innings on Saturday. He had no reason to be. His control was erratic he walked the first batter of the game and hit the first guy he faced in the second. He wasn't fooling anyone. He couldn't even get on the same page with catcher Brian McCann. Only two double plays saved him and the Atlanta Braves from severe damage. "I told Mac that it wasn't going to be my greatest outing," Minor said. He was wrong. It was. Minor showcased his skill, determination and intelligence, demonstrating for a career-high 7 13 innings why the Braves have great hope in him. Minor was masterful after struggling through the first two innings against Milwaukee on Saturday. He settled down, found his control and a connection with McCann. He retired 18 consecutive batters at one point, crossing up batters with a mixture of fastball and changes, and working both sides of the plate to leave the Brewers befuddled in a 2-1 victory. "It's scary," McCann said. "He's competitive. He's a big-time athlete. He has a will to be great. "You don't know where this guy's ceiling's at." Minor was unflappable and more economical than a Toyota Prius. This wasn't anything like his 12-strikeout performance against the Cubs in 2010. This time, Minor threw pitches on the edges of the plate and allowed the Brewers to hit them at his teammates. There were only four strikeouts. He threw 62 pitches through five innings and 79 after six. The Brewers kept sending up batters and Minor kept setting them down. Eight in a row. Eleven in a row. Fourteen in a row. "I went deep in the game," Minor said. "I don't care about the strikeouts, as long as I'm getting guys out." He eventually retired 18 straight Brewers and left after one of his few mistakes, Jonathan Lucroy's one-out double in the eighth. His 99th pitch was one of his worst, a fastball right down the middle. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez immediately called for Jonny Venters as Minor received a standing ovation and high fives from his teammates. "He did everything," Gonzalez said. "He was really in command of that baseball game." Minor's performance did more than boost his confidence and value, it broke a dubious streak by Braves starters. They had been pitching like the sixth inning was the Great Wall of China. To them, it was impassable and impenetrable. For whatever reason, they hadn't retired a hitter in the sixth all season. Minor gave up two runs in the sixth in his first start, leading to his departure in a loss to the Mets on April 8. And on Friday night, Braves starter Jair Jurrjens, pitching with a five-run lead, gave up two runs in the sixth, sending him out of the game. Minor busted down that wall on Saturday, showing the promise that prompted the club to select him with the sixth overall pick in the 2009 MLB Draft, just six spots below Stephen Strasburg, who went No. 1 overall that year. One year after losing the fifth spot in the rotation to fellow rookie Brandon Beachy, Minor is fully entrenched this year. And it's not because he's the Braves' only lefty. "Mike hit his spots all night long with every thing he had," McCann said. "He continues to get better. I say that every time. It makes him fun to catch, fun to work with. You tell him one thing, he puts it into action, on the spot. He puts it into the game that day." Minor has had other strong starts in his short career. There was that strikeout-heavy game against Chicago in 2010. He shut out the Giants for six innings last August and held the Dodgers to one run in six innings just two weeks later. But there was something even more special about this one, especially coming off his first start of the season, when he gave up six runs in five-plus last week. "He did a helluva job commanding the strike zone with all of his pitches," Gonzalez said. "That's a sign of a guy who's maturing, who is getting comfortable in the major leagues."
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