ST. LOUIS — Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was so impressed with Mike Minor that he referenced two of the best pitchers in the National League.
Minor bounced back from the shortest outing of his career with seven strong innings, leading Atlanta to a 5-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday.
“I felt like I was pounding the zone, hitting more spots,” Minor said.
Atlanta, which has the best record in the NL, salvaged the finale of the four-game set. Andrelton Simmons hit his 12th homer for the Braves, who closed out a 2-4 road trip.
Minor (13-5) gave up one run and six hits while pitching on seven days’ rest after allowing four runs in 1 2-3 innings against Washington on Aug. 17. The left-hander struck out two and walked one, playing a big role in the end of St. Louis’ four-game winning streak and prompting his manager to compare him to aces Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals and Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers.
“He’s developing into a big-time deal,” Gonzalez said. “The Wainwrights of the world, the Kershaws of the world, they stop losing streaks and extend winning streaks.
“He’s becoming one of those guys.”
Minor also beat the Cardinals 4-1 on July 26, starting the Braves on a 14-game winning streak.
“He was sharp today, he didn’t give us a lot of mistakes to handle,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. “And he got out of any kind of jams that he got himself into.”
Minor, who also legged out an infield hit in the seventh, recorded his team-high 19th quality start. He leads the team with a career-high 13 wins, but he had little interest in any talk of being a stopper.
“I don’t look at myself as the ace of this team,” he said.
Simmons hit a solo drive in the seventh for his 12th homer, giving the Braves a 4-1 lead.
Craig Kimbrel came on with two out in the eighth and picked up his 41st save in 44 opportunities. It was his first four-out save of the season, a trend that may continue in October.
“We may have to do that come postseason,” Gonzalez said. “It was perfect timing. He hasn’t pitched in three days, with a day off tomorrow, it made a lot of sense to push him and he came through.”
Kimbrel enjoyed the extra work. He also liked sitting the dugout for a change between the eighth and ninth innings.
“I found myself talking and joking around,” he said. “Then I said, ‘Wait I’ve got three more outs to get.’ But I was able to get back out there and get in the zone.”
Atlanta jumped on Lance Lynn (13-8), scoring one in the first and two in the second. Lynn gave up four runs and nine hits over seven innings while dropping to 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA in his last four starts.
The Braves needed just six pitches to jump in front. Jordan Schafer led off the game with a triple and came in on a run-scoring single by Elliot Johnson, his first RBI as a member of the Braves.
Gerald Laird and Joey Terdoslavich, getting spot starts, each singled to start the second. Paul Janish followed with an RBI single. Schafer then pushed the lead to 3-0 with a double, marking the first time in his career he tripled and doubled in the same game.
The win helped Atlanta get back on track against the Cardinals. The Braves swept St. Louis in a three-game series July 26-28 in Atlanta.
“You don’t want to get swept especially by a team that’s a playoff team that you have the potential of seeing,” Schafer said. “You don’t want them to have confidence if you face them in the playoffs.”
St. Louis infielder Matt Carpenter had two hits, pushing his NL-best total to 157. He doubled in the sixth and scored on a groundout by Matt Holliday, who has an RBI in his last five games.
Allen Craig had three of the Cardinals’ eight hits for his 44th multihit game of the season.
“We wanted the sweep, but it’s still a really good series to win three games out of four against a tough team,” Craig said.
The Braves won for the first time since outfielder Jason Heyward suffered a broken jaw on Wednesday in New York. Heyward, who was hit by a pitch from Jonathon Niese, will be out four to six weeks.
NOTES: The Cardinals will play their next 13 games against NL Central rivals Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. ... Atlanta begins a nine-game homestand on Tuesday with the opener of a three-game series against Cleveland. Braves LHP Alex Wood (2-2, 2.50 ERA) faces Danny Salazar (1-1, 3.52 ERA) in the opener. ... St. Louis hosts Cincinnati on Monday in the start of a three-game series. Tyler Lyons (2-4, 5.09 ERA) takes on Cincinnati’s Mike Leake (11-5, 3.12 ERA). ... Atlanta is 7-7 since ending a 14-game winning streak on Aug. 10.