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Minor Improves But Bullpen Implodes As Nationals Handle The Braves 8-4

Despite a sad day for the Braves, this picture should make you smile
Despite a sad day for the Braves, this picture should make you smile

The Braves put up a valiant effort against Stephen Strasburg today, but the bullpen was unable to hold against a suddenly white-hot Nationals offense. Mike Minor was once again bitten by the gopherball, but pitched much better than he had in last several starts.

As the game got underway, it initially looked to be more of the same bad Mike Minor we've seen over the last few starts. He surrendered a leadoff double to Danny Espinosa, but was able to limit the damage to one run on an Adam LaRoche sacrifice fly. The second inning is where Minor got in trouble. After two quick outs, Minor gave up back to back hits to light-hitting catcher Jesus Flores and Strasburg. Minor then hung a first-pitch changeup to Danny Espinosa who deposited it in the seats for a 3 run jack. Two of the homers he allowed in Cincinnati came off the changeup as well, so that's a pitch Minor is going to have to work on keeping down in the zone.

Minor settled down over the next three innings though, allowing on two hits, both doubles. Minor seemed more poised and relaxed from the 3rd through the 5th - hopefully he use that to generate a little bit of confidence in advance of his next start.

On the other side, the Braves weren't intimidated by Stephen Strasburg, and hung 4 runs on him over 6 innings. The first two came in the second on an RBI single by Juan Francisco and an RBI groundout by recent call-up J.C. Boscan. The last two came in the 5th, when Dan Uggla took a 3-1 fastball and gave it a ride into the center field seats. That would temporarily knot the score at 4 apiece.

Unfortunately, the stoppers in the Braves' pen weren't up to the task tonight. Kris Medlen came on in the 6th and promptly gave up an RBI double to Chad Tracy and then and RBI triple to Rick Ankiel (Déjà vu, much?). Johnny Venters came in in the 7th and gave up a solo home run to Bryce Harper, followed by an RBI double to Adam LaRoche. That made the game 8-4, and that was how it would end.

One bright spot in the game for Atlanta was Juan Francisco, who went 3-4 on the day. I won't lie, I cringed at the thought of Francisco going up against Strasburg, but the third baseman handled the bat very well today. He was the only Brave with a multi-hit game today. With Chipper on the DL, someone needs to step up for Atlanta, and if Francisco can be that guy, it'll be a big boost for the club.

The Braves will attempt to avoid the sweep tomorrow night as Brandon Beachy goes against Gio Gonzalez in what could potentially be the best pitching matchup on the season so far.

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