MLB Team Report - Atlanta Braves - INSIDE PITCH

ATLANTA -- Ervin Santana looked like a $14-million bargain his first six weeks with the Atlanta Braves. Then, for nearly two months, he looked more like a bust.

Now the right-hander appears back on track. The Braves need him to stay sharp the final two months as they try to beat out Washington and repeat as National League East champions.

Santana, who faces San Diego on Monday in the finale of the four-game series, has won four of his past five starts and pitched into the eighth inning twice.

That recent work is in contrast to a six-start stretch in which his ERA was 6.44.

"Everything lately has turned out how I wanted it to," Santana said. "I had a bad month, very bad, but everyone has their highs and their lows. I just focused on my work in the bullpen and I'm seeing the results."

Santana, who is 9-6 with a 3.87 ERA, was at his best against Miami on Wednesday, striking out 10 while limiting the Marlins to six hits and a run over 7 1/3 innings.

That showed that he still had swing-and-miss stuff after fanning just one over six innings during a victory over Philadelphia in his previous start.

The Braves were fortunate that Santana was still available as a free agent when Kris Medlen went down in spring training and needed Tommy John elbow surgery. Now they need Santana to pitch the rest of the way like the pitcher who was 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA through mid-May.


MLB Team Report - Atlanta Braves - NOTES, QUOTES

RECORD: 57-48

STREAK: Won two

NEXT: Padres (LHP Jason Lane, 0-0, 0.00 ERA) at Braves (RHP Ervin Santana, 9-6, 3.87 ERA).


--RHP Ervin Santana, who faces San Diego on Monday in the series finale, has six quality starts in his past seven outings after a dismal six-game stretch where his ERA was 6.44. In a victory over Miami on Wednesday, he pitched into the eighth inning for the second time in four starts after making it that far only once in his first 15 starts. Santana, who is 9-6 with a 3.87 ERA, is 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in two career starts against the Padres.

--LHP Mike Minor recorded just his third quality start in his past nine games Sunday against the Padres. Minor (4-6) gave up two bases-empty homers, but the only other run charged to him came after he had left the game. He allowed eight hits, struck out six and walked one in 6 2/3 innings. Minor, who has a 5.23 ERA, threw 110 pitches.

--2B Tommy La Stella improved to 17-for-48 with runners in scoring position after an RBI single in the Braves' six-run third inning on Sunday. He also had two walks in the game and scored twice.

--RF Jason Heyward, batting just .153 against left-handers, got a day off Sunday with Eric Stults pitching for the Padres. He is 10-for-30 with a homer during the homestand, and is batting .261 with nine homers and 42 RBIs in 102 games.