For Minor, the playoffs are a new season.
The left-hander who the Braves have relied on all season was at his best when Atlanta needed him most Friday night, tossing 6⅓ innings of one-run ball in a 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 2 of the NL Division Series.
Minor walked one and struck out five while allowing eight hits.
“We really needed it,” he said. “We needed to even it up. We’re going into the next game feeling good.”
Over his final 10 regular-season starts, spanning two months, Minor had a 4.30 ERA in 60⅔ innings. In his previous 22 starts dating back to the beginning of the season, the lefty had a 2.75 ERA in 144 innings.
Minor was giving up harder contact in the strike zone, allowing a line drive on 30 percent of balls in play, compared to a 22 percent season rate.
The result was a winless streak that went back to Aug. 25 and spanned six outings.
That changed against the Dodgers on Friday night, as Minor quickly settled into the game and threw 5⅓ scoreless innings after a first-inning run allowed.
“Usually, when he settles down like that, he’s going to give you a good opportunity, he really is, and that’s something where he’s getting better,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
Minor attributed the aggressiveness of opposing teams against him early in starts for his winless streak. During the streak, a chunk of his runs allowed came early in outings before settling in to throw effective innings.
“I think teams have been really aggressive towards me,” he said. “I throw a lot of strikes, so they don’t want to get deep in the count. A lot of teams are either swinging on the first pitch of the game, showing me they’re going to swing early, and most of the time I like to pound the strike zone early on and get in a good rhythm.”
He again had trouble early in Friday’s outing, giving up an RBI double to Hanley Ramirez in the first, but he settled into his command and used his pitches more effectively as the start progressed. He threw just 30 pitches between the third and fifth.
Minor still labored some against his final batters faced, allowing two hits in the sixth and one in the seventh before getting pulled. But he bore down to maintain a lead, something the Braves needed in Game 2.
“Nobody wanted to go out to L.A. down two games,” Braves closer Craig Kimbrel said. “Tonight was huge in our minds.”