Mike Minor warms up during his rehab appearance with the Gwinnett Braves on Saturday at Coolray Field. (Photo: Chris Roughgarden/Gwinnett Braves)
LAWRENCEVILLE — Based on what will likely be his final rehabilitation start, Mike Minor looks ready to rejoin the Atlanta Braves’ starting rotation.
The left-hander withstood a rough start to throw six strong innings, and got offensive support from 12 hits in the Gwinnett Braves’ 9-6 win over the Charlotte Knights before 5,272 fans at Coolray Field on Saturday.
Minor, who started the season on the disabled list from a sore shoulder that flared up due to his late start to spring training from an unrelated offseason medical procedure, gave up just four hits and three runs, only two earned, with no walks and four strikeouts over 80 pitches, with 52 going for strikes.
And he essentially cruised after giving up two hits and two runs over the first four batters of the game.
“I had a tough first inning, but other than that, I started working on getting some pitches in — my change up,” Minor said. “Looks like I got (Charlotte) off-balance a little bit. I think the main thing was going out there and being healthy and walking away feeling healthy, and getting the pitch count up.
“I could’ve thrown to 90 (pitches) this time. I think last time I threw 69 or so. … I feel healthy and (I’m) locating, so I feel pretty good. … Those guys (with the Atlanta Braves’ staff) have been doing a heck of a job, and I don’t want to let them down coming in there. I think we’ve got the (National) league-leading (team) ERA right now. Hopefully, I won’t skyrocket that.”
Minor’s night got off to a good initial start when he blew a 91 mph fastball on a 3-2 pitch to strike out the game’s first hitter, Gorkys Hernandez.
But Carlos Sanchez took a pitch on the outside corner to the gap in right-center for a triple before coming home on Josh Phegley’s sacrifice play to put Charlotte in front 1-0.
Then after getting ahead 0-1 on Matt Davidson, the Knights’ third baseman jumped on Minor’s next pitch and rocketed it off the back wall of the bullpen in left field for a solo homer to push the lead to 2-0.
However, it didn’t take long for the G-Braves to get those runs back, and then some.
“(The Knights) were just aggressive,” Minor said. “I left the ball over the middle of the plate trying to get some strikes. They were aggressive and they hit the ball hard (in the first inning).”
Jose Constanza and Phil Gosselin drew back-to-back walks to lead off the bottom of the first before Tommy La Stella loaded the bases with a single.
Ernesto Mejia then sent a hard-hit ball inside the third-base bag for a two-run double that pulled the G-Braves even at 2-apiece.
Todd Cunningham would later put the G-Braves in front by blooping a two-run double down the left-field line, and another run came home on Tyler Saladino’s throwing error.
By the time the inning was over, 10 hitters had come to the plate, and the G-Braves had a 5-2 lead.
Given the lead, Minor then settled down, retiring 14 of the next 15 Knights hitters he faced before Carlos Sanchez reached on Gosselin’s throwing error with one out in the sixth.
Sanchez would eventually come around to score an unearned run on Phegley’s second sac fly of the night, but Minor recovered nicely to avoid further damage.
And by that time, Christian Bethancourt’s RBI single in the third and another Charlotte error in the fifth had given him extra cushion, leaving the G-Braves with a 7-3 lead.
Mejia would add another two-run double in the bottom of the eighth to give him two hits and four RBIs on the night, while Pedro Beato battled three walks, plus Denis Phipps’ sac fly and Dan Black’s two-run double in the ninth, to finally put the game away.
Cunningham finished the game 3-for-3 — his second straight three-hit game — with a walk, a stolen base and two RBIs, and La Stella added three hits.