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Minor drops season debut as Braves still suffer from sluggish offence

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ATLANTA - Manager Fredi Gonzalez hopes the Atlanta Braves' offensive drought won't last much longer.

The Braves, who rely on a lot of homers, have scored a total of just nine runs in their past five games.

"When you're not scoring runs, this is the kind of game you're going to get," Gonzalez said. "Now we need to split a gap with people on base and put a big number up."

Mike Minor lost his season debut and Justin Upton took a called third strike with two runners on base to end the game as the Braves fell 2-1 to the San Francisco Giants on Friday night.

Michael Morse and Angel Pagan homered and Tim Lincecum allowed one run over six innings for the Giants.

San Francisco has won seven of eight. The Braves have dropped a season-high four straight.

After missing the first month of the season with left shoulder tendinitis, Minor (0-1) allowed seven hits, two runs, no walks and struck out four.

He trailed 1-0 when Pagan led off the game with his third homer and was down 2-1 in the sixth after Morse added his seventh homer.

Lincecum (2-1) gave up six hits and three walks with four strikeouts and kept Braves hitters off balance by keeping his pitches low in the strike zone and added a sharp curveball and slider.

Though Lincecum's ERA still stands at 5.12 this season, San Francisco has won his past four starts, and the right-hander is 3-0 with a 2.91 ERA over that span.

Lincecum had problems in the fifth by walking leadoff hitter Gerald Laird, who advanced on Jason Heyward's single and scored from second on Freddie Freeman's RBI single.

But that was all the damage Atlanta's offence could muster.

San Francisco's bullpen, which leads the majors with a 1.98 ERA, continued its stingy work.

Santiago Casilla, the third Giants pitcher, struck out Chris Johnson with runners on first and second to end the seventh. He faced the minimum in the eighth, lowering his opponents' batting average against right-handers to .162 in 37 at-bats.

Closer Sergio Romo earned his eighth save in eight chances in an adventurous ninth. After retiring pinch-hitter Evan Gattis and Heyward on groundouts, Romo gave up B.J. Upton's single and walked Freeman.

But Romo ended the game when Justin Upton, the cleanup hitter, took a called third strike.

"We're 17-11, and I don't think we've hit like we can hit all year," Laird said. "We've been struggling for runs and getting a three-run homer to give us a lead, but I think this team is capable of scoring a lot more runs. Just be patient and don't have guys pressing. If we keep pitching the way we are, we're going to win a lot of games."

Minor continued his troubles with the long ball. He gave up four homers in his last rehab start for Double-A Mississippi on April 25 and has allowed nine homers in his past seven big-league starts dating to last Aug. 31.

Even so, his return could boost a Braves rotation that lost Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to season-ending elbow surgeries during spring training.

Minor, Atlanta's leader in innings pitched the past two years, began the night 19-13 in 46 starts since the 2012 All-Star break and had a 2.90 ERA that ranked fourth in the majors over that span.

"I thought I did well," Minor said. "I felt good. Threw some quality pitches, and they hit some mistakes. I gave up a lot of hits that I felt like were more middle of the plate. Other than that, I felt good."

Notes: Giants RHP Tim Hudson, who won his 200th career game in Atlanta last year, is glad his next turn in the rotation is Tuesday at Pittsburgh. "I had nine wonderful years here," Hudson said. "It was a dream come true to player. I'm kind of glad I'm not pitching here. It would be a little weird." Hudson is 4-1 with a 2.17 ERA in six starts this year. ... In a deal announced earlier in the day, Johnson and the Braves agreed to a $23.5 million, three-year contract covering 2015-17. ... RHP Gus Schlosser was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett to make room for Minor on the 25-man roster. ... Minor's return has moved RHP David Hale to the bullpen.

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