Wrapping the Padres; Braves drop two of three
When the final west coast swing of the season began Friday night in San Diego, the Braves were coming in hot off four straight victories at home, three of those coming in a sweep of the Blue Jays, as well as winners of 6 of their last 7 road games.
But the weekend series against the Padres showed the Braves, and their fans, that anything can happen on any given day in Major League Baseball.
It began Friday night, as Derek Lowe had nothing but problems with the Padres lineup, giving up 5 runs on 8 hits in 5 2/3 innings as the Braves dropped the opener, 11-2.
Lowe was one of just two Braves pitchers victimized by the Padre offense. Jairo Asencio worked just 2/3 of an inning, but gave up 6 runs (3 earned) on 4 hits.
San Diego starter Tim Stauffer had the stuff to shut the Braves down, and he did just that, limiting the Atlanta offense to 2 runs, both coming off the bat of Freddie Freeman (2-R HR, top 7). The 28-year-old righty gave up 4 hits (Heyward 2, Chipper and Freeman) and struck out 9, posting his third victory of the year while Lowe took his sixth loss on the season.
Saturday was a turn of the tide, as the Braves offense, led by Dan Uggla's four-RBI performance, jumped all over the Padre pitching staff, putting up 10 runs of their own en route to a 10-1 victory.
The Braves struck first, scoring a run in the top of the first and second innings. A single off the bat of Jones scored Heyward to give the Braves an early 1-0 lead before a Nate McLouth double scored Uggla, putting the Braves up 2-0.
Like the night before, there was a pitcher on the mound ready to battle, and Saturday night, it was Jair Jurrjens.
Staked to that early 2-0 lead, Jurrjens lone run given up came on a solo homer in the bottom of the 3rd. While the Padres had their opportunities to bring a few more runs in, Jurrjens held them down, throwing 6 strong innings before the bullpen pitched the final 3, sealing Jurrjens strong start and handing him his 10th win of the year. Jurrjens allowed 3 hits, struck out 2 and walked 4.
The Braves gave JJ a little insurance in the 6th after Freeman's single scored Heyward. But the offense was not done yet, as it tacked on 7 more runs - Uggla's RBI single & 3-run blast, Alex Gonzalez's RBI sacrifice bunt and RBI doubles from McLouth and Jones.
With the way the first two games went down, anything was expected for the finale, and the unexpected happened.
After the Braves took a 1-0 lead in the top of the 8th, the Padres made "everyday" Jonny Venters work, squeaking four runs out of the young lefty before taking the finale, 4-1.
Locked in a pitchers battle, both Tim Hudson and Corey Luebke remained sharp, Luebke leaving after the 5th and Hudson after the 6th with the ballgame tied at zero.
Hudson looked sharp, not as he did Monday night, but not far off. He allowed 6 hits and no runs, striking out 8 and walking 3. Luebke limited the Braves to one hit, striking out 6 and walking 2.
The Braves struck first when Jordan Schafer's double scored Eric Hinske from first, thanks in part to Will Venable's error, taking a 1-0 lead with the strength of the bullpen warming.
From the get-go, Venters looked off, giving up a lead off walk before a single, putting runners on first and second with no outs. After the Padres sacrificed the runners over, Venters intentionally walked the next batter to load the bases, hoping to induce an inning-ending double play.
The very next batter, Venable, attempted a bunt but popped right back to Venters, putting the Braves one out away from smothering a Padre rally.
It was all for naught as Venters was unable to handle Jason Bartlett's grounder, watching it trickle to Gonzalez at shortstop. Gonzalez was unable to notch that third out, allowing the Padres to tie the game.
Consecutive RBI-singles by Orlando Hudson and Chase Headley forced Venters out of the game, as the Padres took a 4-1 lead, snatching victory from the hands of defeat and sending the Braves to Seattle with a sour taste left in their mouths.
Notes: The four runs allowed by Venters were more than he allowed in his previous 43 IP.. The Braves offense has been held to two htis or fewer in 5 games this year.. Uggla walked twice Saturday night. It was his fourth multi-walk game of the year.. The last Braves pitcher to notch 10 wins in 14 or fewer starts was Tom Glavine, who did it in 2002.. During every Sunday home game, the Padres organization pays tribute to the U.S. Marines, stationed at local Camp Pendleton.