The Braves got plenty of timely hits and scored all of their runs with two outs Tuesday, extending their winning streak to a season-high six games with a 5-4 win against the Mets.
But on a night when Andrelton Simmons had a two-run single in a three-run fourth inning that put the Braves ahead for good, there was one development that likely raised concerns across the South: The continued lackluster performance of Braves pitcher Mike Minor, who didn’t make it out of the fifth inning again and hasn’t won since May 19.
Tommy La Stella was hit in the right foot by a pitch in the second inning and in the eighth inning with what was diagnosed as a bruise. La Stella’s injury wasn’t worrisome. Minor’s ongoing struggles perhaps should be.
Minor lasted 4 1/3 innings and gave up nine hits, four runs on a pair of two-run homers, and had one walk with five strikeouts. The left-hander needed 101 pitches to record 13 outs and got no decision to remain 2-5 for the season and 0-3 with a 5.21 ERA in eight starts since May 19.
After Minor exited, four Braves relievers retired 14 of 15 batters including eight strikeouts. Craig Kimbrel struck out the side in the ninth inning to record his 26th save.
Shae Simmons (1-0) relieved Minor with runners on the corners and one out in the fifth and retired the next two batters to protect a 5-4 lead on the way to winning his first major league decision.
Simmons retired all five batters he faced in the fifth and sixth innings, Luis Avilan pitched a perfect seventh, and Jordan Walden struck out three of four batters in the eighth.
Top prospect Christian Bethancourt gave the Braves a 1-0 lead with a two-out single in the second inning for his first major league RBI. Chris Johnson had singled with two out and stole second base before La Stella was hit by a Daisuke Matsuzaka pitch.
Minor gave the lead back in the next inning when Curtis Granderson hit a two-run homer, his second in as many nights and the 12th off Minor in 12 starts this season.
Freddie Freeman, always a menace to the Mets, tied the game with a double off the left-field wall in the third inning, following Andrelton Simmons’ two-out single.
Minor had a nice cushion to work with after the Braves scored three runs in the fourth on a walk and three two-out singles, the first of those hits by Minor himself. He ripped a two-out RBI single up the middle to drive in Johnson with the go-ahead run, after Matsuzaka had struck out Bethancourt looking at a third strike on the inside edge.
Seeing their pitcher do some damage with the bat seemed to spark the Braves, who got two more two-out hits from B.J. Upton and Simmons, the latter driving in two runs to push the lead to 5-2. Upton had stolen second base to put himself in scoring position, his 13th steal surpassing his season total of 12 a year ago.
Upton has played in 79 of 84 Braves games this season and already surpassed his runs totals as well from a career-worst 2013 season, when he hit .184 and scored just 30 times in 126 games. He scored his 37th run Tuesday.
The veteran center fielder was batting a mere .209 before Tuesday, but his single extended his hitting streak to eight games since moving into the leadoff spot and raised his season hits total to 64, eight off his 2013 total.
Staked to a lead for the second time in the game, Minor almost gave it all back once again in the next inning, and might have if he hadn’t been replaced as things started to come unraveled. Trouble began in the fifth inning when Minor walked Ruben Tejada after getting ahead in the count 0-2. He threw him four consecutive balls on four different kinds of pitches.
Daniel Murphy homered two pitches later on a 1-0 changeup, the 13th homer of the season off Minor and second of the night by a left-handed hitter. After giving up hard-hit singles to the next two batters, Minor was replaced by rookie reliever Shae Simmons (1-), who got a fly out and strikeout to leave runners on the corners and preserve a 5-4 lead.
Simmons retired all five batters he faced, two by strikeout, to make his first major league decision a win.
It was the third time in his past five starts that Minor worked five or fewer innings, including each of his past two home starts. He’s given up 20 hits (four homers) and seven runs in 9 1/3 innings in those past two starts at Turner Field, where Minor has allowed 10 homers in 39 2/3 innings this season.
While right-handed hitters had all of the previous homers against Minor, the lefty had allowed an alarming .364 batting average by left-handed hitters before Tuesday (compared to .272 by right-handed hitters).
His last win was May 19 against Milwaukee in his fourth start, after spending first month of the season on the disabled list recovering from shoulder tendinitis that flared up at the beginning of spring training.
Minor is 2-9 with a 4.53 ERA and 20 homers allowed in 18 starts since Aug. 31, 2013. This after he had gone 13-5 with a 2.99 ERA and 15 homers allowed in his first 26 starts last season.