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Padres-Braves Preview

AP - Sports

While it hasn't helped them make up too much ground in the NL East, the Atlanta Braves' recent surge has put them in position for a playoff berth.

A visit from a sub-.500 club could aid the Braves' quest, but the San Diego Padres recently matched their longest win streak of the season and will try to start another one Monday night when they open a four-game series at Turner Field.

Atlanta (66-48) has won 14 of 18 and has a 4 1/2-game cushion for an NL wild card, but also remains 4 1/2 games behind division leader Washington. The Braves missed a chance to make up some ground when their late rally - four runs in the ninth inning - and attempt at a three-game sweep of New York fell short in a 6-5 defeat Sunday night.

"I just love this team because we battled all the way to the end and we came up short," outfielder Martin Prado said. "But we tried. We played hard. That's the only thing that matters."

Mike Minor (6-8, 4.95 ERA) will try to help the Braves get back on track with another solid outing, but will need more support than he got in his last start. The left-hander has allowed three runs or fewer in each of his last six starts but took the loss in Tuesday's 3-0 defeat in Philadelphia.

Minor gave up all three runs in the opening frame before settling down to pitch seven innings.

His next opponent is a team that was denied a season-high seventh straight win with Sunday's 11-5 loss in Pittsburgh. After building a quick 5-0 lead, San Diego (51-65) allowed nine runs in the fourth inning.

"If you've been around the game long enough, you'll run into those innings where everything they do works, everything you do doesn't and you can't stop the momentum. You've just got to take it," manager Bud Black said.

Eric Stults (2-2, 2.72) will try to help his club regain its momentum while building on a strong return to the rotation. In his first start since June 3, the left-hander went 5 1-3 innings and fanned a season-high five in a 2-0 win over the Chicago Cubs last Monday.

"Physically, I felt good. I pitched on three days' rest, but it felt like a normal start," Stults told the Padres' official website. "I think I got a little tired in the sixth inning and I just tried to battle through that inning, get six innings for us, but overall ... I didn't feel like I'd been overworked."

Stults will make his first start against Atlanta since Aug. 9, 2009, when he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Minor lost his only start versus San Diego on May 31, 2011, allowing three runs and eight hits over six innings.

Padres third baseman Chase Headley, batting .333 with six homers and 19 RBIs in 11 games this month, hit a run-scoring double off Minor during that game.

Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman, hitting .360 with 15 RBIs over his last 14 games, is 1 for 4 lifetime against Stults.

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