ATLANTA — Mike Minor believes he will be sharp in October even though he hasn’t won a start since Aug. 25.
“I don’t think it’s been great, and I think it shows,” he said. “But it’s one of those things that I thought I pitched pretty well all year, but right now I’m kind of struggling a little bit.”
Minor gave up two home runs in the Atlanta Braves’ 5-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday night.
The NL East champion Braves began the night with the league’s best record and are one-half game in front of St. Louis Cardinals, who beat Washington 4-3 on Monday. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who did not play Monday, moved two games back.
Atlanta was shut out for the 16th time, second-most in the NL.
Minor (13-8) allowed eight hits and three runs and struck out six in seven innings. The left-hander, whom manager Fredi Gonzalez is considering to start the playoff opener next week, is winless in his last five starts.
“What I like is he gave us every opportunity to win the game,” Gonzalez said. “Seven innings, and you hold the opposition to three runs, you’ve got a pretty good chance.”
With six games left in the regular season, the Braves have the majors’ best home record at 52-23, but Milwaukee led 4-0 in the eighth when Aramis Ramirez homered off reliever Anthony Varvaro.
Marco Estrada (7-4) gave up two hits, walked three and struck out six. He threw a career-high 115 pitches, 76 for strikes.
“I’d get ahead and once we had two strikes, my goal was just to try and bounce (a changeup) and see if I’d get a swing out of it,” Estrada said.
The hits Estrada allowed were a triple by Andrelton Simmons in the second and single by Justin Upton in the sixth.
In his last eight starts since coming off the disabled list with a strained left hamstring, Estrada is 3-0 with a 2.26 ERA, a span of 51 2-3 innings.
Carlos Gomez gave Milwaukee a 1-0 lead in the first, hitting the first pitch he saw from Minor for his 22nd homer.
The Brewers went up 3-0 in the fifth when Norichika Aoki doubled and scored on Jonathan Lucroy’s 18th homer.
After Ramirez’s 12th homer in the eighth, Milwaukee took a 5-0 lead when Sean Halton doubled off Varvaro, moved to third on Yuniesky Betancourt’s infield single and scored on shortstop Simmons’ throwing error.
Minor has allowed at least two homers in seven starts this season and is 0-3 with a 5.12 ERA in those outings. He gave up just three homers over an 11-start stretch from June 26-Aug. 25, but has been taken deep seven times in his last five games.
“I think I’m trying to throw more sinkers in and when I throw four-seamers away or try to go back and forth with them, there’s a different release point and I think I’m just leaving the ball up,” Minor said. “They’re big-league hitters, so when they see that, they take advantage of it.”
Home plate umpire Angel Hernandez ejected Gonzalez with two outs in the seventh. With a runner at first, Estrada hit Paul Janish in the left leg with a pitch, but Hernandez ruled that Janish, who leaned into the 89 mph fastball, did not attempt to get out of the way.
Rob Wooten pitched the eighth and Michael Blazek the ninth for Milwaukee.
NOTES: Gonzalez said C Brian McCann took the day off to spend time with his family after his wife Ashley gave birth to their second child, a daughter. ... 1B Freddie Freeman, the first Atlanta player with at least 100 RBIs since Chipper Jones and Jeff Francoeur in 2007, was given the night off. Freeman has hit safely in 16 of his last 19 games with six homers and 17 RBIs. ... Gonzalez said that Braves LHP Alex Wood will pitch out of the bullpen in the postseason. Wood is 0-1 with a 2.29 ERA in 19 2-3 innings as a reliever, and Gonzalez is concerned that LHPs Luis Avilan and Scott Downs are battling minor injuries and have struggled recently in late innings. ... Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said SS Jean Segura, out since last Wednesday with a strained right hamstring, did some running Monday and could be used off the bench by Wednesday. ... The Brewers snapped an eight-game losing streak at Turner Field.