Thanks to an eight-game winning streak, the Arizona Diamondbacks are back near the top of the NL West.
They’ll try to extend the run and complete their first-ever three-game home sweep of the Atlanta Braves as the teams wrap up their set on Sunday.
The Diamondbacks (58-48) beat the Braves (54-51) 4-3 in 10 innings on Saturday, matching a season high with their eighth straight win. Arizona has not won nine in a row since a franchise-record 12-game run June 18-30, 2003.
Although the Diamondbacks have never swept the Braves in Arizona, they did pull off a four-game sweep in the teams’ last meeting in Atlanta, from June 1-4, 2006.
Saturday’s victory boosted Arizona into a virtual tie for first place in the West with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who lost in Colorado and now lead the Diamondbacks by one percentage point.
Conor Jackson singled home Chris Young with one out in the 10th as Arizona won in its final at-bat for the third straight game. Eric Byrnes and Tony Clark had homered to end the previous two contests.
“It doesn’t matter what the score is,” Jackson said. “It doesn’t matter what the inning is. We never feel we’re out of the game.”
The Diamondbacks, who would win the NL wild card if the season ended now, held first place in the West after games of June 27, but dropped 14 of their next 19.
The Braves are on a similar slide now, having lost four straight games and nine of 13. Saturday’s defeat dropped them into third place in the NL East, one game behind Philadelphia and 4 1/2 games in back of the New York Mets.
“We’re not winning the close ones, not to overstate the obvious,” Atlanta starter John Smoltz said. “When a team’s hot like Arizona, it seems like they’re almost winning every game they have to win, whether it’s in the last at-bat or by making plays.”
Smoltz held Arizona to just three runs in seven innings on Saturday, and Tim Hudson (10-5, 3.24 ERA) will be looking to turn in a similar effort in the series finale after producing one of his best outings of the season his last time out.
He came within one out of a shutout Tuesday, but ended up allowing three runs in 8 2-3 innings against San Francisco, as closer Bob Wickman blew a save for the third time in one of Hudson’s starts.
Still, the Braves went on to win 7-5 in 13 innings.
“Typical Huddy game,” Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. “He pitches his (tail) off and then we blow it. He can’t pitch any better than that. He was just unbelievable. Huddy’s snake-bit with this type of game. It’s unbelievable. He ought to be on his way to 20 (wins).”
Hudson is 4-0 with a 2.72 ERA over his last six starts. He has dominated the Diamondbacks in his career, going 3-0 with a 1.91 ERA in five starts against them.
Arizona counters with Livan Hernandez (6-6, 4.59), who is coming off his first win in 10 starts. The Cuban right-hander gave up just one run in seven innings of Tuesday’s 9-3 win over Florida after going 0-4 with a 6.41 ERA in his previous nine starts.
Hernandez is just 3-14 with a 5.09 ERA in 23 career appearances, including 22 starts, against the Braves - his most defeats against any team. However, he won his last start against them on June 5 last season while with Washington, giving up four runs in six innings of a 5-4 Nationals victory.