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MIL@ATL: Marcum fans six over seven solid innings

ATLANTA -- After Zack Grienke and Randy Wolf each gave up eight runs in the previous two games, the Brewers desperately needed a quality start Saturday night.

Shaun Marcum provided just that, but he couldn't quite match Braves starter Mike Minor.

Minor allowed just two hits over 7 1/3 innings and the Braves won, 2-1, to hand the Brewers their seventh straight loss at Turner Field.

The Brewers had the crowd of 37,408 sweating in the ninth inning, though, as Braves closer Craig Kimbrel had to work out of a bases-loaded jam. He slipped a called third strike past pinch-hitter George Kottaras, then got Mat Gamel swinging on three pitches to end the game.

"I really liked our chances," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "I thought we were a least going to pick up one run."

But Kimbrel held on for his fourth save after loading the bases on a single by Aramis Ramirez sandwiched between walks to Ryan Braun and Corey Hart.

"He can throw it by you, like he did the last pitch, and has the real nice hard slider," Roenicke said of Kimbrel.

Now the Braves will go for a second series sweep of the Brewers in as many years on Sunday after the Crew was unable to win Marcum's strong outing. The right-hander allowed just three hits over seven innings, striking out six and walking two.

"My arm feels great," said Marcum, who had shoulder soreness in Spring Training. "I got up to 105 pitches, so my pitch count is no longer an issue."

But Marcum couldn't quite match Minor, who went past the seventh inning for the first time in his young career.

"Fastball in and out and a great changeup," Roenicke said in praise of Minor. "We didn't square many balls."

"He did a great job," Marcum said. "He was locating his fastball and mixing up his offspeed pitches. You have to give him credit."

Held to a first-inning single until the eighth inning, the Brewers finally chased Minor with a double by Jonathan Lucroy and scored an unearned run on second baseman Dan Uggla's throwing error after an infield single by pinch-hitter Norichika Aoki against Jonny Venters.

Kimbrel, though, wiggled out of the ninth-inning jam to preserve Minor's victory.

Minor (1-1) gave up six runs over five innings in his first start of the season against the Mets, and surrendered five runs in 4 1/3 innings in his only start against the Brewers last season.

But the first-round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of Vanderbilt handcuffed the Brewers this time as he got stronger and stronger, not allowing a runner in the third through seventh innings.

"You don't know where this guy's ceiling is at," Braves catcher Brian McCann said. "He just keeps getting better and better. It's scary. This guy is competitive, a big-time athlete and a will to be great."

Rickie Weeks led off the game with a walk and Carlos Gomez followed with a single. But Braun struck out and Ramirez, who had been 6-for-9 with a homer against Minor, bounced into a double play.

Marcum (1-1) pitched six solid innings in a victory against the Cubs in Chicago on Monday and was even better against the Braves.

Atlanta scored its runs in a second inning that featured a leadoff walk to McCann, a squib single by Jason Heyward, a throwing error by left fielder Braun and Juan Francisco's RBI double.

"It was supposed to be down and away and it came back middle," Marcum said of the pitch to Francisco. "It cost us a run."

But the night after a 10-8 loss, the Brewers' problem was hardly on the mound.

"Shaun pitched great," Roenicke said.

But thanks to Minor's strong outing and Kimbrel's escape act, the Braves were able to win despite finishing with just three hits.

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