Padres-Braves Preview

The Associated Press

Atlanta's slumbering offense woke up to get the Braves back in the win column, and it may have happened just in time considering Mike Minor's recent struggles.

The left-hander seeks his first home victory in over two months Sunday night when the Braves look to notch back-to-back wins in a four-game set against the San Diego Padres.

Atlanta (56-48) hit .196 during a 1-4 stretch to fall 2 1/2 games behind NL East-leading Washington before Freddie Freeman and Tommy La Stella led an 11-hit attack with three apiece in Saturday's 5-3 win.

Chris Johnson also drove in a pair of runs to help the Braves move within 1 1/2 of the Nationals, who lost at Cincinnati.

"We've got to keep going," Johnson told MLB's official website. "We're still behind."

Atlanta may need a similar showing with Minor on the hill if it wants to even its record on an 11-game homestand that concludes Monday.

Minor (3-6, 5.32 ERA) has allowed 12 runs and 21 hits in nine-plus innings over his last two starts and is 0-3 with a 5.96 ERA in five home outings since his last win at Turner Field on May 19.

Minor, who went 13-9 with a 3.21 ERA in 2013, is coming off his shortest start of the season after giving up six runs and 10 hits in only three-plus innings of a 6-5 home loss to Miami on Tuesday.

"I'm a little concerned because we've see him so much better than that," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We'll keep working. We'll keep trying to figure it out because he's a big piece of our rotation right now."

Minor has surrendered three runs over six innings while dropping each of his two career home starts against the Padres (46-57), though he hasn't faced them since 2012.

Outfielder Chris Denorfia is 4 for 6 with two doubles and a triple versus Minor, while first baseman Yonder Alonso is 2 for 3 with an RBI. Alonso went 1 for 4 Saturday in his first action since June 17 because of right wrist tendinitis.

Seth Smith had his third three-hit effort in five games, leaving him 11 for 17 over that span.

Although they're batting a MLB-worst .218 - the lowest at this point in a season since the 1968 New York Yankees - the Padres have hit .303 with 29 runs over their last four games and will try to provide Eric Stults (3-12, 5.00) with some rare run support.

The left-hander, who leads the majors in losses, hasn't pitched poorly with a 3.07 ERA over his last five starts, but he's been given a total of 15 runs while going 1-9 with a 4.98 ERA over his last 12.

"I've been in this game long enough to know you're going to hit stretches where you're not going to pitch well," he said. "You don't dwell on the bad ones. You move forward."

Stults is a baseball-worst 0-8 with a 5.43 ERA in 11 road outings, though he is 1-0 with a 1.93 mark over three career starts versus Atlanta. He opposed Minor in his only start at Turner Field, allowing one run over 7 2-3 innings in a 4-1 win Aug. 13, 2012.

Justin Upton is 3 for 9 with a home run and four RBIs and Jason Heyward has gone 2 for 7 with a homer against Stults, though Freeman is just 1 for 7 in the matchup.

Freeman will look to stay hot after going 5 for 9 to start this series. The All-Star first baseman is 13 for 23 in his last six games versus San Diego.

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