PHILADELPHIA — By the time he stepped to the plate in the seventh inning, Cody Asche had seen enough of Mike Minor to know that the Atlanta Braves left-hander had his best stuff.
That didn’t stop the rookie third baseman from swinging away on the first pitch he saw, belting a two-run homer to lift the Philadelphia Phillies to a 2-1 victory Friday night.
The go-ahead blast was all Cliff Lee needed to outduel Minor in a matchup of two of the league’s premier southpaws.
“I definitely thought he didn’t want to fall behind in that situation,” Asche said. “I think on my first at-bats, he threw some good pitches first pitch. So I was looking for a strike, something up on the zone and something I could put some good wood on and drive.”
After surrendering a homer to Andrelton Simmons leading off the third inning, Lee (12-6) didn’t allow a hit through eight innings. He finished with 10 strikeouts without a walk, giving up just two hits.
In his first time facing the Phillies this season, Minor (13-6) allowed four hits and two earned runs in seven innings, striking out nine and walking one.
“It was a pretty darn good pitching matchup,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Both were throwing strikes with all of their pitches. . Lee is one of the top pitchers in the majors. If he’s on, it’s going to be a tough night.”
Asche hit his fourth homer of the season and is 7 for 11 with five RBI in his past three games.
Asche made a sharp bare-handed play at third in the ninth to help Jonathan Papelbon
record his 25th save of the season.
“I wouldn’t say my nerves have dissipated,” Asche said of his recent hot streak. “I just think you learn to control them.”
Asche wasn’t the only Phillie at his best in the field. Lee was backed up by some impressive defensive plays all night.
In the sixth inning, second baseman Chase Utley made a sprawling catch to rob Justin Upton of a base hit. And two innings before that, center fielder Cesar Hernandez ran a long way to track down a shot in the gap from Evan Gattis.
“I think it helps when I’m throwing strikes and working fast,” Lee said. “I’m not trying to take credit because the guys were making great plays. But it all kind of goes hand in hand.”
Simmons homered to left field to lead off the third inning. It was the 14th homer of the season for Simmons and the league-leading 161st for the Braves.
Simmons made a big defensive play at shortstop, going deep in the hole and firing a rocket to first to nab the speedy Jimmy Rollins to end the sixth.
Rollins got the Phillies’ first hit of the game with a bloop single to lead off the fourth but was thrown out trying to extend it into a double. No Phillie got into scoring position until Asche’s homer in the seventh.
“It looked like (Minor) made one mistake to Asche there, just like I made one mistake to Simmons in the third,” Lee said. “It came down to one swing of the bat.”
NOTES: Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee told reporters before the game that Ethan Martin would move to the bullpen with Tyler Cloyd replacing him in the rotation. A former first-round draft pick who was traded to the Phils for Shane Victorino last year, Martin went 2-4 with a 6.90 ERA in seven starts since getting called up from Triple-A. ... At 2 hours and 14 minutes, Friday’s game marked the shortest nine-inning game for the Phillies this season. ... The Braves dipped to 34-35 on the road this season. They are 51-20 at home. Atlanta had won eight of its last 10 and was 29-10 in their last 39 games before Friday’s loss. ... Eight of Simmons’ last nine hits have gone for extra bases. ... Lee has given up 19 homers, the most on the Phillies’ staff. ... Atlanta’s Alex Wood (3-3) opposes Kyle Kendrick (10-12) on Saturday.