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ATL@BOS: Minor tosses seven innings of one-run ball

Mike Minor's best start of 2014 came when the Braves needed it most. As Atlanta has cooled off since a red-hot April, Minor gave up only one run in seven innings against the Red Sox on May 29 at Fenway Park.

But Minor's gem was tarnished when two Atlanta errors in the eighth allowed Boston to rally back for its third comeback victory in a four-game sweep of the Braves, who fell into a first-place tie with the Marlins in the National League East.

Atlanta rallied to sweep Miami and regain control over the following three days, curing the sting the Braves felt on that unfortunate night against the Red Sox.

"They're a tough team, and I feel like all four games we played them, they battled back each time," Minor said following the hard-luck no-decision. "It was expected for them to battle back, it's just unfortunate for us."

The Braves blew yet another lead in Tuesday night's 7-5 loss to the Mariners, who will try to extend their winning streak to five games in the finale against Atlanta. To do that, Seattle needs All-Star right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma to get back on track.

Iwakuma took his first two losses of the season in his last two outings. Iwakuma missed all of Spring Training and the first month of the season with a torn tendon in his right middle finger, then went 3-0 with a 1.76 ERA in his first four starts.

But things didn't go as smoothly in back-to-back losses to the Astros and Tigers in Seattle's last homestand, as he gave up two home runs in each game and a combined 17 hits and nine runs over 13 innings.

Iwakuma brings a 3-2 record and 3.09 ERA into his first game against the Braves. The normally efficient 34-year-old gave up a season-high five runs in a season-low six innings in his last outing, a 6-3 loss to the Tigers.

Manager Lloyd McClendon said the veteran didn't have quite as much life on his pitches and likely is just now adjusting to the rigors of the season after his belated start.

"I didn't see the finish to his pitches that he usually has," McClendon said. "He probably had a little bit of tired arm, not having a Spring Training and going as deep in ballgames as he's gone. It's probably something that's normal and something to be expected."

Iwakuma is 25-12 with a 2.71 ERA in 55 career starts for Seattle since moving into the Mariners' rotation in mid-2012, and was third in last year's AL Cy Young voting. He's 1-1 with a 4.60 ERA in nine Interleague games, including 0-1 with a 4.15 ERA in three starts.

Braves: Walden on the comeback trail
• Atlanta reliever Jordan Walden (strained left hamstring) could soon begin a rehab assignment after throwing a 30-pitch bullpen session without issue on Tuesday. He felt no pain and remarked, "So far, so good."

The session was Walden's third since the injury and his effort level was much more intense than during the previous two.

"The first two were just kind of nice and easy," Walden said. "But today, I kind of did a little more."

Mariners: McClendon searching for cleanup hitter
• With Corey Hart sidelined likely for another month with a strained hamstring, McClendon has been looking for the right man to put behind No. 3 hitter Robinson Cano. He opted for Kyle Seager in Tuesday's series opener, as the third baseman has been on a tear of late, bumping first baseman Justin Smoak down to fifth, even though that meant stacking four left-handers in a row at the top of the order.

Whether McClendon sticks with that strategy on Wednesday against Minor remains to be seen, but the skipper said the switch-hitting Smoak needs to work his way out of a tough stretch that has dropped his batting average to .217.

"I'm doing everything I can just to give Robbie the best protection possible," McClendon said. "Smoaky is in a little bit of a funk right now and hopefully he'll come out of it soon. I just think he probably needs to be a little more aggressive, attack early in the count a little more. When you're not feeling good, the worst thing you can do is get one swing per at-bat. That's hard to hit that way. Sometimes you just have to let it fly."

Worth noting
• The Mariners and Braves are facing each other for the first time since 2011, and this is Seattle's second visit to Turner Field, where they went 1-2 in 2008. The two teams have another two-game Interleague series at Safeco Field on Aug. 5-6.

• Atlanta's pitching staff has a 7.00 ERA in its past three home games after compiling a 2.43 ERA in its first 28 games at Turner Field in 2014. Comments