Braves 5, Padres 3
ATLANTA (AP)—Kelly Johnson is sure glad he didn’t take the day off.
Johnson came through with another huge two-out hit for the Braves, a bases-loaded double in the sixth inning, and Atlanta closed a long homestand with a 5-3 victory over the San Diego Padres on Thursday.
The first-place Braves went 7-3 during an 11-day stay at Turner Field. They look more and more like the team that won 14 straight division titles—not the one that ended the streak with a losing record last season.
“We have a lot of confidence,” manager Bobby Cox said. “I don’t know if it’s swagger and all that. But we’re off to a good start, real good. This is a fun team.”
Johnson wasn’t even supposed to be in the lineup. The Braves planned to give him the day off against Padres left-hander David Wells, but that changed shortly before the first pitch when Edgar Renteria was scratched for the third time in four games because of a flu-like symptoms.
The game was tied at 2 when light-hitting Chris Woodward doubled over the head of right fielder Brian Giles, putting runners at second and third with one out in the sixth. Wells struck out Craig Wilson on a checked swing, but that merely put the Braves in a spot where they’ve been at their best all season.
Pinch-hitter Willie Harris walked to load the bases and Wells hung a breaking ball to Johnson, who lined it into the right-field corner to drive everyone home.
The Braves have now scored a major league-leading 88 runs with two outs— more than half of their overall production.
“I don’t think there’s any real secret to it,” Johnson said. “We’ve got guys who know how to bear down. It’s someone new every night.”
Johnson slapped his hands together after sliding into third on the throw home. He’s off to a strong start as the Braves’ new second baseman, playing well in the field and topping the regulars with a .427 on-base percentage—just what he’s expected to do in the leadoff role.
“I’m very, very pleased,” said Johnson, who had never played second until this season. “I take a lot of pride in all the work I put in. It’s really paid off.”
After Johnson’s hit, Padres manager Bud Black strolled slowly to the mound to pull Wells (1-2), who surrendered seven hits and walked four in 5 2-3 innings.
“You have to give them credit,” Black said. “They got the clutch hits when they needed them.”
San Diego dropped three of four in the tightly fought series. There were two one-run games, two others decided by a pair off runs.
“It’s tough to swallow when you lose three of four, especially some that you feel you should have won,” Wells said.
Hudson (4-1) was staked to a 2-0 lead when the Braves put together four straight hits in the first, the last of them run-scoring singles by Andruw Jones and Jeff Francoeur. Wells didn’t surrender another hit until the sixth, while the Padres rallied to tie it up.
Khalil Green led off the fourth with a single and came all the way home on Mike Cameron’s double to left-center. Kevin Kouzmanoff followed with another double to nearly the same spot, evening the score at 2.
Hudson went six, scattering nine hits and working out of jams in the first and third. He got a scare in his final inning when Josh Bard lined a shot off the right-hander’s left wrist. The pitcher fell to the ground and remained down while Bard beat out the hit.
“I knew he hit me good,” Hudson said. “I expected when I looked down I was going to see my wrist cracked.”
Instead, after a quick examination by head trainer Jeff Porter, Hudson threw a warmup toss with no problems and stayed in the game. He got Kouzmanoff to hit into a double play with his final pitch, then was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom half.
Hudson headed to the clubhouse for precautionary X-rays, which were negative. The wrist was wrapped after the game but he should be able to make his next start.
“It somehow found the flesh on this skinny wrist,” Hudson quipped.
For the second straight game, the Braves did not allow a walk. They have gone 24 innings without issuing a free pass. … Atlanta has another streak going, this one not so enviable. The Braves have gone eight games without a homer, their power drought now at 67 straight innings. … San Diego hopes that RHP Clay Hensley will be able to throw off the mound early next week, then head to the minors for a rehab start. He’s on the DL with a strained right groin.
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