Braves’ Minter K’s 7 in 3 innings in starting debut


ARLINGTON, Texas — Atlanta Braves left-hander A.J. Minter made history with his first career start on Friday. Then he made it again with his performance.

After becoming the first Major League Baseball pitcher to make his starting debut in a postseason game, Minter struck out seven Los Angeles Dodgers over three innings, the most ever in a playoff outing of three or fewer innings, starter or reliever.

The Dodgers won 7-3 to force a Game 6 in the National League Championship Series.

Minter, who was not announced as the Braves’ starter for Game 5 until Friday morning, was a lockdown reliever for the Braves this season but had not lasted more than 1⅔ innings or 36 pitches in an outing. He left Game 5 having allowed one hit, no walks and no runs over 42 pitches.

Manager Brian Snitker had designated Minter as his opener — a high-leverage relief pitcher who typically throws the first inning to face the top of the order. Minter made it all the way back around to leadoff hitter Mookie Betts, whom he struck out looking to cap an inning in which he struck out the side — all looking — and a five-batter stretch in which he punched out Cody Bellinger, A.J. Pollock, Joc Pederson, Chris Taylor and Betts.

Minter, 27, last started at Texas A&M, where he attended college, in 2015. In his final start for the Aggies, he injured his elbow and required Tommy John surgery.

In the regular season, Minter struck out 24 in 21⅔ innings.

His three-pitch mix — a 95 to 97 mph fastball, a hard slider and a changeup — vexed the Dodgers. Their starter, Dustin May, who actually is a starter, was taken out after two innings as Los Angeles trailed 2-0.