Padres-Braves Preview

The Associated Press

The Atlanta Braves may own the NL's best record, but they sure don't look the part lately with a mediocre offense.

They'll likely need to turn things around Saturday night against the San Diego Padres to avoid their first three-game home slide in over four months.

Atlanta's magic number for clinching the NL East remained at six following a 4-3 loss to San Diego in Friday's opener as second-place Washington claimed a 6-1 win over Philadelphia. The Braves (88-59) looked primed for a win with a 3-0 lead after six innings and five scoreless frames from David Hale in his first big league start.

But the Padres (67-79) scored two runs each in both the seventh and eighth innings, with pinch-hitter Logan Forsythe delivering the go-ahead single.

The Braves' only runs came on homers from Justin Upton and Brian McCann in the third. They're hitting .197 with 33 runs scored during a 4-6 stretch since a 13-5 win over the New York Mets on Sept. 2.

Despite homering Friday, Upton and McCann are a combined 6 for 54 (.111) during that stretch.

The only other time Atlanta lost three in a row at Turner Field this season was May 1-3, with two defeats to the Nationals and one against the Mets.

Even if their offense continues to struggle to produce, the Braves figure to have a good chance with Kris Medlen (13-12, 3.46 ERA) on the mound. Medlen is 4-2 with a 1.98 ERA over his last six starts and has been particularly tough lately at home, posting a 4-1 record and 1.50 ERA in his last five outings there.

After starting the year 1-6 overall, he pushed his record over the .500 mark for the first time by allowing two runs over 6 1-3 innings in a 5-2 win at Miami on Monday.

"It's pretty fun to look back and see that I started 1-6 and kind of turned things around," said Medlen, whose cause was helped by Atlanta's five-run fourth inning. "I'm not the one scoring the runs, and they had a huge inning for me today. It's kind of what's gotten me to this point this year."

Medlen has also been strong versus San Diego, going 2-2 with a 1.33 ERA over six matchups. Two were starts in which he threw a combined 17 scoreless innings, though Chase Headley - who homered in the eighth on Friday - is 3 for 8 off him.

The Padres will counter with left-handed rookie Robbie Erlin (2-2, 5.56). Erlin has been solid in two starts since being recalled from the minors after the release of Edinson Volquez, winning once and limiting opponents to three runs over 11 1-3 innings.

One of the club's top pitching prospects, Erlin went 1-2 with a 7.15 ERA in six games - four starts - earlier in the year.

Atlanta's Jason Heyward took batting practice prior to Friday's contest for the first time since a pitch fractured his right jaw Aug. 21, though there still isn't a timetable for his return. The Braves hope to get him back before the regular season's end.

Medlen has received a decision in 19 consecutive starts, going 12-7.

Atlanta had won nine straight games against NL West opponents prior to Friday.

San Diego has won six of the last seven meetings while limiting the Braves to 18 runs.

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