ATLANTA — Some were ready to give up on Mike Minor when the left-hander gave up six or more runs in four straight starts in April and May.
Suddenly Minor is rewarding the Braves for their patience.
Minor struck out nine and combined with Craig Kimbrel on a four-hitter, Jason Heyward had two hits and drove in a run, and Atlanta edged Joe Blanton and the Philadelphia Phillies 2-1 Saturday night.
Minor (6-7) allowed one run on four hits and no walks in eight innings. His nine strikeouts matched his season high. He retired the last 13 batters he faced.
“It takes a little time,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of the 24-year-old Minor. “He’s not a finished product by any means. He’s heading in that direction pretty quickly and right in front of our eyes. Good for him and good for us as an organization and a team to be patient with that guy.”
The Phillies’ only run came on Chase Utley’s homer in the fourth.
Minor showed new-found composure as he refused to be deterred by the homer. The left-hander called his progress during the season “a complete 180, just in confidence and my demeanor on the mound and not letting things get to me.”
“I feel like I’ve had the confidence, it was just more of executing pitches and not blowing up on myself inside and letting it carry over to the next inning or the next at-bat,” Minor said.
Kimbrel pitched a perfect ninth for his 30th save. Utley was caught looking at Kimbrel’s 99 mph fastball for a strike to end the game.
The Braves, who lost 12 of 18 games to the Phillies in 2011, are 6-2 against Philadelphia with five straight wins in 2012.
Minor made his longest start since lasting eight innings in a win at Arizona on April 19. He has not allowed more than two runs in any of his four starts in July and has won three of his last four decisions.
“He’s getting better and better and I think he’s a guy we’re going to rely on down the stretch here to win us some big ballgames,” said catcher Brian McCann. “Tonight was one of the steps of doing that.”
Blanton (8-9) gave up two runs on four hits with one walk and seven strikeouts in seven innings and then talked about the possibility he could be traded.
“I’ve been in the trade rumors a few times and it’s nothing new for me,” said Blanton, who will be a free agent after the season.
“All you can do is go out and play.”
Blanton said the sudden fall from the top of the division has been difficult to take.
“I think a lot of guys are kind of thrown off by it, trying to figure out why and all that stuff,” Blanton said. “It makes your mind spin a little bit.”
Before the game, manager Charlie Manuel said the Phillies lack the edge they showed in winning the 2008 World Series and 2009 NL championship.
“One time we had the best attitude and the best hustle of any team in baseball,” Manuel said. “We’ve kind of slipped a little bit. We’ve got to get that back. ... We get outplayed.”
Blanton and Minor began the night ranked first and second, respectively, among NL pitchers in home runs allowed. Minor matched Blanton’s 22 homers allowed on Utley’s blast into the center field seats.
With one out in the first, Martin Prado singled, advanced to third on Heyward’s single and scored on Chipper Jones’ fly ball to center. Instead of throwing to the plate, center fielder Shane Victorino threw toward first base, but first baseman Ryan Howard was not covering the bag and the throw sailed past first for Victorino’s first error in 273 games — since Aug. 14, 2010, at the Mets.
The error was not costly, as Heyward was stranded at second.
The Braves pushed the lead to 2-1 in the third when Michael Bourn led off with a single, moved to second on Prado’s groundout and scored when Heyward’s infield hit bounced off Utley into right field. Utley was positioned in shallow right field and no error was charged on the play.
Blanton recorded 11 straight outs before the streak ended on the Phillies’ second error. Brian McCann led off the second with a soft grounder Blanton fielded in front of the mound, but Howard dropped Blanton’s throw at first base. Blanton pitched around the error by retiring the next three batters.
NOTES: C Erik Kratz started for Carlos Ruiz, who was given a regular day off, but also is battling plantar fasciitis. Manuel said he believes Ruiz, who lined out as a pinch hitter in the eighth, can play through the foot pain with help from trainers. ... Gonzalez said RHP Kris Medlen will replace RHP Jair Jurrjens in the rotation and start Tuesday against the Marlins. Jurrjens moves to the bullpen. ... RHP Peter Moylan, who is returning from rotator cuff surgery and hasn’t pitched in the majors this season, was placed on Triple-A Gwinnett’s 15-day DL with right shoulder tendinitis. ... SS Andrelton Simmons, on the disabled list with a broken right little finger, said his cast should come off next week. ... The series ends Sunday when Phillies RHP Roy Halladay faces Atlanta RHP Tim Hudson.