NL East wrap: Braves top Jays; Nats win on walk-off

NL East wrap: Braves top Jays; Nats win on walk-off
June 22, 2011, 5:45 am
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Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Posted: 1:45 a.m.

The Associated Press

Braves 5, Blue Jays 1

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ATLANTA -- Brian McCann thinks Mike Minor is close to delivering on his potential as a starting pitcher.

The next stop for Minor, however, is Triple-A. Still, McCann, the Atlanta Braves' five-time All-Star catcher, believes Minor has shown he belongs in the major leagues.

"I think he's getting more comfortable, more confident, more understanding of what he needs to do when he gets strike one," McCann said. "He got so many swings and misses on his changeup."

McCann hit a two-run homer, Jason Heyward had an RBI single and Minor ended a nine-start winless streak in Atlanta's 5-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday night.

The Braves have won three straight following a 1-5 stretch.

Toronto manager John Farrell, who called a team meeting before the game to let pitcher Ricky Romero address comments he made in criticizing the offense on Monday, watched his club struggle at the plate for the third straight game.

The Blue Jays have scored two runs in losing three straight on the road for the first time since April 30-May 3. They have dropped eight of 12 overall.

Minor (1-2) allowed five hits, one run, one intentional walk and struck out a season-high eight in seven innings. After so many struggles since last August, Minor took some good advice from teammates who told him to relax during his bullpen session.

"Before the game they were saying have fun, pitch to contact," Minor said. "Don't walk anybody."

Minor, a first-round draft pick in 2009, was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett after the game with right-hander Brandon Beachy coming off the disabled list and starting Wednesday against Toronto.

The Braves have already called up Minor three times this season. Before Tuesday, the left-hander had gone 0-4 with a 9.07 ERA over his last nine starts.

"It seems like he was still a little timid up until tonight," Jones said. "I told him in spring training, you've got to come out of the bullpen breathing fire. That's how you earn the respect of the everyday players."

Athletics 7, Mets 3

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NEW YORK -- Josh Outman, Jemile Weeks and the Oakland Athletics have been good as gold in their garish alternate jerseys.

Outman threw another impressive game, Weeks scored three times and the streaking A's walked their way to a 7-3 victory over the New York Mets on Tuesday night, handing rookie Dillon Gee his first loss of the season.

Riding their longest winning streak of the year, the A's had a gift waiting for them when they came back into the clubhouse after batting practice. Equipment manager Steve Vucinich secretly brought those gold alternate jerseys from Oakland to New York so players could keep wearing them -- even on the road.

He hid them away all afternoon, then sprang the surprise.

In baseball, you don't mess with a winning streak. It's all about superstition.

"A bunch of guys were pumped," Vucinich said. "Brian Fuentes said he would fly them in on a private jet. He didn't know I already had them here."

It all started when, with his team in a tailspin, Outman opted for the gold jerseys when he started last week at home in a win over Kansas City. He said he was looking to "mix it up, see if we can get something going."

The A's kept wearing gold and haven't lost since, so Vucinich checked to make sure it wasn't a violation of Major League Baseball rules to don those alternate jerseys on the road.

No problem at all. It just meant pairing them with gray pants and the team's traditional white spikes.

"Not our best look," Weeks said. "But like I said, it's part of our winning right now, so we're just going to I guess keep it until it wears itself out, I guess you could say."

Nationals 6, Mariners 5

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WASHINGTON -- Wilson Ramos knew it as soon as the ball left his bat. Teammate Jayson Werth jumped out of the dugout to start celebrating, without even bothering to see where the drive landed.

Ramos capped Washington's five-run ninth inning with a game-ending three-run homer, lifting the Nationals to a dramatic 6-5 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night.

"I hit that ball pretty good," Ramos said. "After I hit the ball, I knew that ball was in the stands."

The rookie catcher's shot finished the biggest ninth-inning comeback for the Nationals since the team moved to Washington from Montreal in 2005. It also tied the largest ninth-inning comeback in franchise history.

Jerry Hairston and Danny Espinosa each had two-out RBI singles before Ramos connected on a 1-1 pitch from David Pauley for his sixth homer. Ramos threw his arms up almost immediately after the ball left his bat and Pauley (4-1) trudged off the mound.

The Nationals ran out of the dugout and waited for Ramos to touch home plate before starting a mass celebration.

"It went about 20 feet off his bat and I hopped over the fence. I knew right away," Werth said. "I didn't even look to see where it went."

The Mariners wasted a fine effort from Doug Fister, who allowed one run and three hits in eight innings. The right-hander is 0-3 in four June starts despite a 3.60 ERA.

Brandon League replaced Fister for the ninth and Werth reached on a two-base error by first baseman Justin Smoak to begin the inning. Roger Bernadina walked before Ryan Zimmerman hit into a double play, leaving Werth on third.

Hairston followed with his run-scoring single and Michael Morse reached on a comebacker that hit League in the right leg. League took some practice pitches before he was replaced by Pauley, who surrendered Espinosa's hit to set the stage for Ramos.

"I was pretty excited after I hit that homer," Ramos said. "That was my first walk-off home run in my career. So when I saw my teammates waiting for me at home plate, I was very, very excited."

Marlins 5, Angels 2

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MIAMI -- Chatting with Hanley Ramirez during batting practice, Jack McKeon wrapped an arm around the struggling shortstop, whacked his arm and jabbed him several times in the stomach.

Maybe a hands-on approach by the new Florida Marlins interim manager will jump-start Ramirez. Maybe a move to the cleanup spot will, too.

Ramirez, battling a season-long slump, batted fourth for the first time in his career Tuesday against the Los Angeles Angels. The lineup was the second drawn up by McKeon since he took over Monday.

"Hanley's a potential No. 4 hitter," McKeon said. "We've all known that. We've just got to find a way to get him going. Now he's in the key spot and I think he'll respond. I had a nice chat with him today. He's in a great frame of mind."

It showed: Ramirez went 2 for 4 -- his first multi-hit game since May 21 -- and helped the Marlins break an 11-game losing streak with a 5-2 win.

"I was really impressed with the way he came to the ballpark and the attitude he had and the confidence," McKeon said. "It looked like he was very comfortable and enjoying himself."

McKeon held Ramirez out of the starting lineup Monday, saying he didn't like the way the All-Star shortstop ran in the Marlins' previous game. But if Ramirez was in the doghouse with the new skipper, he didn't stay there long.

Ramirez's reaction to being given the cleanup job by McKeon?

"Happy -- like a little kid when he sees candies," Ramirez said. "Obviously he knows what kind of player I am. I haven't showed it this year, but he believes in me, and I believe in myself."

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