Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 7/21/13
Here are three things we learned from the Braves' 3-1 loss to the White Sox, one of Atlanta's most baffling, hard-luck defeats of the season. 1. Mike Minor picked an odd day to record the first complete game of his career From May 8-June 15, covering eight Minor starts (all Atlanta victories), the Braves scored a total of 58 runs, or 7.3 per outing. In that span, Minor notched five wins and a 2.25 ERA. Of the southpaw's last six starts (June 20-July 21), the Braves scored only 22 runs, or 3.6 per outing. In that span, Minor posted a very-respectable ERA of 3.68 (with 38 strikeouts). So, it's not like has deserved the fate of only one win in the last month. On Sunday, Minor (eight strikeouts) went the full eight innings against the White Sox, surrendering a run in the 1st (the result of one walk, one wild pitch, one Adam Dunn RBI single), a run in the 3rd (one double, one Alex Rios RBI single) and then one unearned run in the 6th. Aside from that, Minor (9-5) faced four or fewer batters five times. In the grand scheme of things, we're talking about minimal damage in a ballpark (U.S. Cellular Field) that's conducive for high scoring on warm, breezy days. On the plus side, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was spared the act of burning through the bullpen for a second straight day; and with a pitching rotation that boasts six rock-solid starters (including Brandon Beachy killing time in the minors), Minor has once again emerged as the club's go-to asset. It goes without saying: He'll need a similarly stellar outing against the Cardinals on Friday. It could be the Braves' signature series of the season. 2. The Braves dropped the ball on a number of early scoring opportunities For Innings 2-5, the Braves accounted for nine baserunners (eight hits, one walk) but managed to tally only one run against White Sox pitchers Jose Quintana (5 13 innings) and reliever Ramon Troncoso. And for the game's first six frames, Chicago pitchers had to pitch from the stretch at least once per inning. And yet, Atlanta missed on nearly every opportunity to forge a lead, minus the fifth-inning, RBI single from Evan Gattis, the outfielder who ended up logging some time at catcher after Gerald Laird's leg injury. Put it all together, and this was an eminently winnable game for the Braves, who had at least two runners on base in four of the first six innings ... before going down quietly in the 7th, 8th and 9th. The biggest letdown: In the second inning, the Braves loaded the bases with zero outs courtesy of a Freddie Freeman single, Brian McCann walk, Gattis infield single but came up snake eyes, after Dan Uggla struck out and Reed Johnson lined into a rally-killing double play. For the day, Freeman and Gattis led the club with two hits apiece. But no individual stat could overshadow the Braves' galling stat of 11 runners left on base. 3. There's no point in overreacting to the occasional Braves series defeat ... as long as the Nationals and Phillies keep floundering In last week's midseason review, I wrote about how the Nationals (48-50) had to finish at least 8-3 in their 11-game homestand, or risk falling behind the other playoff contenders during August and September when Washington will be subjected to a pair of looooong road trips. I also acknowledged how the Phillies (49-50) were strong candidates to be sellers before the MLB trade deadline on July 31, as a means of expediting a reconstruction process that requires more than just a few minor tweaks. Well, with Philly dropping two of three to the Mets and Washington getting swept by the Dodgers this weekend, Atlanta's odds of taking the National League East by mid-September partly due to a lack of competition among the other East rivals are becoming stronger by the day. In other words, championship-contending clubs, like the Braves, shouldn't lose any three-game sets against bottom feeders like the White Sox (39-56) and Marlins. But when there's no sweep involved (on the negative end), it's hardly a major concern in the bigger-picture sense. At 55-43, Atlanta is still cruising toward 90 wins ... without breaking a sweat. Bottom line: It's not the Braves' fault the other NL East clubs can't pull their own weight down the stretch.
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