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CIN@ATL: Minor shines on the hill, at the dish

ATLANTA -- For just the second time in 94 games this season, the Braves turned in a starting lineup without Jason Heyward, B.J. Upton or Justin Upton roaming the outfield. Their replacements filled the void and then some on Saturday afternoon, finding gaps in the Cincinnati infield with their bats and defying outside expectations with three critical manufactured runs.

Outfielders Joey Terdoslavich, Jose Constanza and Reed Johnson combined to go 7-for-11 at the plate, and Mike Minor atoned for a shaky beginning to his start with the go-ahead two-run double as the Braves grinded out a 5-2 win over the Reds on Saturday afternoon at Turner Field.

"I think Vegas lost a lot of money today when they saw our lineup and the guys we ran out there," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "But you can't handicap heart and putting the ball in play, and that's a good trait that some of these guys have."

Terdoslavich was patrolling right field for his first Major League start. Constanza was sent out to start in left less than 24 hours after being recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett. Johnson was playing center field for just the seventh time this season. All three came through when called upon in the field and at the plate to put the shorthanded Braves one game from the All-Star break with their sizable 6 1/2-game NL East lead intact.

"Any time something like that happens, and it's bound to happen throughout the year -- you're playing so many games -- you're going to have to go through some spurts without your big boys, and we were able to step up and do a pretty good job today," Johnson said.

Minor escaped a bases-loaded jam unscathed in a 28-pitch first inning before the Reds broke through for two runs in the second, which was kick-started by a leadoff triple off the bat of Zack Cozart. Corky Miller brought Cozart home on a groundout, and Shin-Soo Choo plated Chris Heisey, who doubled, with a single up the middle.

Minor settled after that and scattered six hits over seven innings with seven strikeouts to earn his ninth win of the season, tying Paul Maholm for the team lead.

"He's stopped letting the little things get to him, and he's been doing that for over a year now and he's been one of the better pitchers in baseball," catcher Brian McCann said of Minor.

Less than two weeks removed from throwing the first no-hitter of the season, Reds starter Homer Bailey appeared to be off to another dominant start his first time through the shorthanded Braves' order, with Johnson's opposite-field single in the third inning the lone blemish.

For the second straight game, McCann opened the Braves' scoring with a solo home run, fouling off four pitches before launching a fastball into the right-field stands in the fourth inning that cut the deficit in half.

The Braves took the lead in the fifth inning thanks to four straight hits from the bottom of the order. After Johnson's leadoff single, Terdoslavich doubled over first base to put men on second and third for Minor, who lined a double into left field to score both runners, his third and fourth RBIs of the season.

"Actually, I thought that was a fastball and it was a slider," Minor said with a smile after the game.

After Terdoslavich collected his second hit of the game in the sixth inning, Constanza shot an RBI single through the left side of the infield that plated Chris Johnson. It capped off a 3-for-4 performance at the plate for the leftfielder, who was recalled from Gwinnett after Friday's game to make his first Major League appearance of the season.

"The last couple of years, every time we've brought him up in certain situations during the course of the year, he kind of energizes us a little bit," Gonzalez said of Constanza. "He's a guy that we wanted a spark and he brought that to us."

Dan Uggla capped the Braves' scoring with a solo home run in the seventh off Alfredo Simon, the second baseman's team-leading 17th of the year.

The outfield rose to the challenge on the defensive side of things when the Reds put two runners on against reliever Luis Avilan in the eighth inning. Reed Johnson raced to the warning track to run down a long fly ball off the bat of Jay Bruce and help the Braves escape. After misreading Cozart's triple in the second inning, Johnson's catch brought an end to the final rally put together by the Reds, who have lost five of their last seven games.

"It's a little tough to see, especially since it's so hot here, you have so many white shirts in the outfield," Johnson said. "I'm playing a little bit deeper, too, we're almost in a no-doubles situation trying to keep that tying run off second base, so fortunately, we were a little bit deeper in that situation, and I was able to make a play that's probably normally a double."

Speaking with reporters after the game, Gonzalez recalled former Braves manager Bobby Cox's advice that baseball games are won and lost at unexpected times. On Saturday, the Braves were rewarded for giving their most recent additions the opportunity to change the game, for better or worse.

"Bobby was not afraid to put them in there when they came up here, and we'll keep that tradition going," Gonzalez said.

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