San Diego (55-38) at Atlanta (55-39)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Atlanta, GA
Temp: 82° F
  • Game info: 1:05 pm EDT Thu Jul 22, 2010
  • TV: SPSO
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The playoffs are more than two months away, but there’s still a lot riding on the series finale between the San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves.

Coming off one of their most encouraging victories of the year, the Padres look to improve the best record in the NL Thursday against the Braves in a matchup of division leaders at Turner Field.

This will be the final regular-season meeting between these clubs, but they could meet in the playoffs with home-field advantage going to the team with the best record.

After losing Tuesday’s opener 4-1 to drop one-half game back of the Braves (55-39) for the league’s best record, San Diego (55-38) reclaimed the top spot with a 4-2, 12-inning win Wednesday night.

Things weren’t looking good Wednesday for the Padres, trailing 4-2 in the ninth inning, but the team rallied against All-Star closer Billy Wagner(notes). Scott Hairston’s(notes) pinch-hit homer and Yorvit Torrealba’s(notes) run-scoring double tied the score. In the 12th, pinch-hitter Nick Hundley(notes) put San Diego ahead with a two-run double, leading the club to its fifth victory in six games.

“That was huge, to get two in the ninth against one of the best teams in the league,” Hundley said.

While the Padres, four games up on second-place San Francisco in the NL West, are hoping to build on this thrilling comeback win, it was a difficult loss for Atlanta.

“I don’t think you can ever brush those games off,” Wagner said. “It’s tough to swallow when you know you had this game and it slips away.”

The Braves hope to bounce back behind Tim Hudson(notes) (9-5, 2.60 ERA), who’ll be taking the mound against one of his favorite opponents.

Hudson allowed one run through six innings against Milwaukee on Saturday before running into trouble in the seventh. He ended up yielding a season-high six runs in 6 2-3 innings of a 6-3 loss. The right-hander, 2-1 with a 1.23 ERA in his previous three outings, also gave up six hits and walked four, including three in the seventh.

Hudson wasn’t his sharpest in a 6-2 victory in San Diego on April 15, allowing two runs, six hits and five walks over 5 2-3 innings, but still moved to 4-0 in seven career starts against the Padres. The three-time All-Star has recorded a 2.89 ERA in winning his last three starts against San Diego.

Hudson, though, has struggled versus Padres slugger Adrian Gonzalez(notes), who is 7 for 14 with two homers against the Atlanta pitcher.

Gonzalez was 0 for 6 with four strikeouts Wednesday, and is 1 for 14 in his last three games.

All of Atlanta’s runs Wednesday came in the third inning. Chipper Jones(notes) drove in two with a single and Brian McCann(notes) followed with a two-run homer.

McCann, who has two homers and seven RBIs in his last three games, is 3 for 5 with two doubles lifetime against scheduled starter Clayton Richard(notes).

Richard (7-4, 3.53) posted a 1.38 ERA in winning his final two June starts, but has yielded at least five runs in each of his three outings this month. In an 8-5 win over Arizona on Saturday, the left-hander gave up five runs and nine hits in 6 1-3 innings but still managed to earn the victory.

Richard allowed three runs and six hits in 5 1-3 innings of a 6-1 loss to the Braves on April 14.

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Starting Pitchers

C. Richard ChC vs. T. Hudson SF
14-9 Record 17-9
3.75 ERA 2.83
153 K 139
78 BB 74
1.41 WHIP 1.15

Scoreboard

Thursday, Jul 22