Atlanta's white-hot 12-1 start to 2013 had one blemish, a 2-0 loss to Philadelphia three games into the season. As another injured member of the Opening Day lineup appears set to return to action, the Braves will look to put Saturday's 10-6 loss behind them and get back to replicating their first-half run, starting with a rubber match at U.S. Cellular Field against the White Sox.
The Braves did not have enough firepower to keep up with Chicago on Saturday, but right fielder Jason Heyward's impending return represents another step toward full strength for an offense that limped into the All-Star break. Heyward missed five games sandwiched around the break with a strained right hamstring and has been eased back to 100 percent to avoid a second trip to the disabled list this season.
"Absolutely you have to be careful," Heyward said on Saturday. "I've been fortunate enough to avoid the DL and I don't want to see the DL with this, because it's something that can nag at you for a long time if you don't let it get right."
Given their situation, the Braves could send no better pitcher to the mound than Mike Minor, who has battled through rough patches in the last month, but kept his composure in back-to-back wins in his final two starts before the break. Minor allowed just two runs in his most recent start July 13, escaping an early bases-loaded jam to last seven innings and striking out seven Reds in the process.
"I felt like I was throwing good pitches," Minor said after the 5-2 win. "There wasn't really any adjustments I was making, just trying to battle through it. I feel like I've been in that situation a lot this year and battled through it, and it was one of those times where I had to do it again."
Left-hander Jose Quintana will look to build off of Jake Peavy's encouraging performance on Saturday, Peavy's first start in a month and a half after a stint on the disabled list with a broken rib. Quintana has done some battling of his known this season, but has not always been rewarded with a win; his 13 no-decisions are the most in the Major Leagues.
"Q, it's like one of those, once he gets past that first inning, for one reason or another, he gets in a little trouble in the first and then after that he gets stronger," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of Quintana after he took the no-decision in Chicago's 4-3 extra-innings loss to the Phillies last Sunday.
Braves: Maholm struggles, leaves with sprained wrist
• The extra days off provided by the All-Star break did little to curb left-hander Paul Maholm's recent issues. In his shortest outing of the season, Maholm surrendered seven earned runs before leaving in the fourth inning with a sprained left wrist in Saturday's loss.
After a string of four victorious starts in which Maholm went at least six innings, the Braves are 2-5 in his seven starts since June 2. Opponents have hit for a .310 average with six home runs over that span.
• First baseman Freddie Freeman returned to the starting lineup on Saturday after a jammed left thumb sidelined him for two games and the All-Star Game. Freeman went 1-for-3 with a home run and three RBIs.
White Sox: Rios responds to benching with slam
• After Ventura sent a message the previous night with a midgame benching of Alex Rios, the struggling veteran outfielder responded on Saturday with a three-hit, five-RBI afternoon, highlighted by a go-ahead grand slam in the third inning.
In the fifth inning of Friday's 6-4 loss, Rios put his head down in frustration after hitting a bouncing grounder to shortstop Andrelton Simmons with one out and runners on the corners. If Rios had been hustling out of the box, he may have been able to beat out an inning-ending double play, allowing a run to score. Two innings later, he was replaced with Casper Wells in right field.
"Well it's a situation that none of us want to be a part of. It's unacceptable behavior and there's a little bit of frustration in that behavior," Rios said on Saturday afternoon. "I'm not using that as an excuse for what happened. It could've been managed in a better way, but it's something that shouldn't have happened."
Going into Saturday, Rios had been in a 2-for-20 slump since a six-hit game on July 9, while the team has continued to languish at the bottom of the American League Central.
• Maholm has taken the loss in each of the three games this season in which the Braves have allowed 10 runs or more.
• Dan Uggla extended his team lead in home runs with a two-run shot in the second inning Saturday, the second baseman's 19th of the season.
Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.