So close to history, so far from a victory. That seems to be the theme of the week for starting pitchers.
One day after David Price pitched a complete game one-hitter and lost in his return to Tampa Bay, Atlanta Braves left-hander Mike Minor came dangerously close to suffering the same fate in Cincinnati, but ended up settling for a no-decision in Atlanta's eventual 3-1, 12-inning victory over the Reds.
Minor was four outs away from pitching the 15th no-hitter in Braves franchise history — fourth since moving to Atlanta — when Billy Hamilton delivered a soft single to center field, just beyond the reach of shortstop Andrelton Simmons. Zack Cosart, who walked earlier in the inning and advanced on Chris Heisey's groundout, raced around third to break up the shutout and tie the score at one.
Just that fast, Minor was one hit away from being on the hook after being on the brink of history.
At that point, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez wasn't taking any chances. Minor had been lights out, but he'd also walked four and was showing signs of fatigue after 107 pitches, so Gonzalez signaled to his bullpen, ending Minor's fantastic night.
One more highlight would come, however. As Minor walked off the field, he received a very nice ovation from the fans in Cincinnati.
After Jordan Walden escaped the inning with the game still tied, the Braves would finally pull ahead for good on Justin Upton's two-run homer in the 12th. Craig Kimbrel wrapped up the win with his 38th save.
It might not be fair to compare the Price and Minor outings pitch-for-pitch. Though they nearly ended with the same place in history, they took two entirely different paths. Price allowed a hit and an unearned run in the first inning, before settling in and retiring 23 straight right through the finish line. Minor walked four, allowed an earned run and didn't get through the eighth. Still, there were enough similarities that you're left shaking your head that neither guy walked away with a win.
A win probably would have felt especially good for Minor, too. After pitching like an ace in 2013, the 26-year-old lefty has yet to get on track this season, posting a 5.16 ERA in his first 19 starts. Complications from urinary tract surgery during the offseason and shoulder soreness in spring training are the likely culprits for his disappointing campaign, but the Braves could use having him at full capacity.
He was showing promise in his previous two outings, allowing five runs in 13 2/3 innings. Perhaps this start will serve as the proclamation that he is, in fact, coming around.
''Just three weeks ago, I felt like I couldn't get anybody out,'' Minor said. ''I felt more focused, but I've felt like that the last three games.''
It was certainly interesting to watch as he weaved his way through Cincinnati's struggling offense. He doesn't throw hard — his fastball on Friday topped out at 90 mph — so he has to find ways to keep hitters off balance. He did so effectively with his change up and curveball on Friday, which allowed him to become the first visiting pitcher to take a no-hitter beyond the seventh inning at the Great American Ballpark.
The Braves will hope it's a good sign, but pitchers are only as good as their next outing. If it's another step in the right direction, Atlanta's already deep and effective rotation may have its ace back.
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