ATLANTA — While the Atlanta Braves wore down Matt Garza with home runs and long at-bats, Mike Minor put together a confidence booster heading into the All-Star break.
Jason Heyward and Brian McCann each hit a two-run homer in the first inning, helping Minor and the Braves beat the Chicago Cubs 7-3 on Thursday night.
Freddie Freeman and Juan Francisco also connected for Atlanta, which salvaged a split of the four-game series.
Minor (5-6) held the Cubs without a hit until the fifth and gave up three runs, two earned, and three hits in 6⅓ innings overall. The left-hander has won consecutive starts after losing two in a row.
“He made his pitches when he needed to,” McCann said.
Minor entered with an ugly 6.20 ERA after giving up four runs in each of his past three starts, putting his rotation spot in jeopardy.
“Every week I’m trying to get better,” Minor said.
Due to Minor’s struggles, manager Fredi Gonzalez was asked before the game whether he needed a good start to protect his place in the rotation. Gonzalez said “every start is important” but said Thursday night’s game wasn’t especially crucial for Minor.
Gonzalez said after the game Minor should “go into the All-Star break feeling good about himself.”
Garza (4-7), who could be one of the top starters on the market ahead of this month’s trade deadline, allowed five runs and five hits in four innings.
He struck out six and walked three while throwing 94 pitches.
Garza threw 44 pitches in the first inning, including 16 to Francisco.
“I don’t think he ever recovered from it,” Gonzalez said.
Francisco added another long at-bat in the fourth. He made Garza throw 12 pitches before taking a walk.
“Two at-bats. We kind of got tired of him,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Francisco. “Move on to the next guy.”