Mets

Mets To Face Braves’ Phenom Mike Minor

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(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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ATLANTA (AP) – Mike Minor took a fast track to the major leagues, making his debut 14 months to the day after the Atlanta Braves made him the seventh overall pick in the 2009 draft.

His third start showed why he didn’t need much time in the minors.

After matching a franchise record with 12 strikeouts in his latest start, Minor looks to improve to 3-0 on Tuesday night as the Braves continue a four-game set with the visiting New York Mets.

Minor (2-0, 4.00 ERA) led the Double-A Southern League in strikeouts before making just five starts in Triple-A, and didn’t waste much time making an impact once Atlanta (76-55) called on him to start Aug. 9.

The left-hander beat Washington on Aug. 17 for his first major league win, then struck out 12 Cubs in a 16-5 rout Aug. 22 to spoil manager Lou Piniella’s final game in Chicago.

No Braves rookie had fanned that many since the franchise was in Milwaukee. George Brunet struck out 12 while pitching 10 2-3 innings June 17, 1960, a feat Bob Sadowski matched three years later.

“He was pretty much dominating today,” Cox said after Minor’s last start. “Minor has a great idea how to pitch. We knew that when we drafted him I was told.”

Jason Heyward had two homers among his career-high four hits and four RBIs to support Minor in Chicago, and he had a similar effort in Monday’s series opener. The rookie All-Star went 4 for 5 with four RBIs, including a three-run homer, in a 9-3 victory that was the NL East leaders’ third straight.

Heyward is hitting .528 (19 for 36) over his last nine games.

“Since I saw that guy in spring training, I knew he was going to be that guy who changes everything on this team,” said Braves infielder Martin Prado, whose three RBIs increased his total to 13 in his past seven games.

The Mets (65-66) will give the ball to a lefty of their own in Jonathon Niese (8-6, 3.63), who will be looking to put one of his worst performances behind him. Niese surrendered seven runs – five in the sixth – and was removed after 5 2-3 innings of an 11-4 loss to Florida on Thursday.

“He probably wasn’t attacking the strike zone as he was earlier,” manager Jerry Manuel told the Mets’ official website of Niese’s troubling final frame. “I guess the lesson to be learned for him is you’ve got to stay in that attack mode regardless of what happens.”

Niese is making his Turner Field debut – he’s 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in three home starts against the Braves. He has been excellent away from home recently, going 2-1 with a 1.89 ERA in six road outings since July 1.

Niese has certainly had the number of Atlanta’s Omar Infante, who leads the NL with a .343 average and is hitting .442 against the Mets. The second baseman, who needs to average 4.4 plate appearances the rest of the way to qualify for the batting title, is 1 for 10 against Niese.

New York third baseman David Wright went 0 for 5 on Monday to drop his average to .070 (3 for 43) in 12 games versus Atlanta this season. The Mets have been held to three runs or fewer in each of the series’ last 11 contests, going 5-6.

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