SAN DIEGO – The Braves’ ninth-inning deficit was much smaller than the night before, but on Tuesday there would be no long-ball thunder against the Padres.
After scoring four runs on two homers in the ninth inning of a 7-6 loss in the series opener, the Braves went down quietly with three consecutive strikeouts in the ninth inning of a 3-2 defeat Tuesday
In losing for the first time in his career against the Padres, Tim Hudson (4-6) allowed three runs and five hits in 7-1/3 innings. He retired 13 consecutive batters before an eighth-inning leadoff single, but the damage was done early and he lost his fifth consecutive road start as the Braves fell to 2-4 on a seven-game trip.
They need a win Wednesday to avoid being swept by the Padres, who got eight strong innings from right-hander Andre Cashner (5-3) and scored all of their runs in the first three innings.
“I really only made two (bad) pitches, and somehow they got three runs,” Hudson said. “But you’ve got to give credit where credit is due – they took advantages of what opportunities they had. Cashner was kind of tough. We couldn’t get really get a whole lot going against him, and that was it. Pretty much what it boiled down to.”
After Cashner limited the Braves to six hits and two runs, and left-hander Joe Thatcher struck out Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann to start the ninth. Dan Uggla struck out against righty Luke Gregerson to end the game.
The Braves staked him to a 1-0 lead in on Freeman’s two-out single in the first inning, but Hudson gave it back on a homer by Chase Headley in the bottom of the first. The Padres third baseman hit .162 with one homer and seven RBIs in 28 games before homering on Hudson’s 1-2 hanging splitter over the plate.
The Padres added a run apiece in the second and third innings, and maintained a 3-1 lead until the Braves scored a run in the sixth. They had a chance to do more damage in the inning after starting out with singles by Jason Heyward and Justin Upton, but Freeman grounded into a double play, bringing in one run but also clearing the bases.
“We got him on the ropes that one inning,” Freeman said Cashner, who is 4-1 with a 3.17 ERA in his past seven starts, including six Padres wins. “I grounded into a double play and killed the rally. We’ve got to take advantage of those, and I wasn’t able to do that tonight.”
The closest the Braves came to scoring again came when B.J. Upton flied out a step in front of the left-center wall to start the seventh inning.
“I might need to get with the chef, man, see if I can get some more weight put on me or something,” said Upton, his sense of humor a sign of his improvement in the past week after struggling mightily for two months. “I hit the one last night pretty well (another fly out to the wall), but the one tonight I hit real, real well, and it didn’t go.”
The Padres’ second-inning run scored when Justin Upton made an awkward sliding-catch attempt coming in on a Nick Hundley’s two-out pop fly near the left-field line, which turned into an RBI double. Kyle Blanks had drawn a leadoff walk and advanced on a groundout.
“He went a long way for that ball,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “I don’t know if he took a step back (initially); sometimes the swing will fool them a little bit. But from what I saw, I thought he busted his butt to get to that ball. Two inches the other way it’s foul. And you’re going full speed and you’ve got the wall closing in on you in foul territory. Just one of those things, I’m going to call it no-man’s land.”
When Everth Cabrera led off the third with a double down the opposite-field line and scored on Carlos Quentin’s sharp single, it was shaping up as another potentially rough night for Hudson. But that’s when the veteran got into a groove.
Hudson retired the next 13 batters, including six strikeouts, before Jesus Guzman’s pinch-hit single leading off the eighth. Though he fell to 1-6 in eight road starts, it was a big upgrade in road performance for Hudson, who had been 0-4 with 7.48 ERA in his past four starts away from Turner Field.
“I felt really good tonight,” he said. “I feel like it’s probably one of more top two or three games, stuff-wise. I feel like I just made a couple of bad pitches and somehow I gave up three runs. They took advantage of them, the homer and the pitch to Quentin, 0-0 (count) with a guy in scoring position. Other than that I felt pretty good.”
After the Guzman single and a sacrifice bunt in the eighth, Hudson was replaced by lefty Luis Avilan, who got a groundout and walked Headley.
The Braves changed pitchers again, and Anthony Varvaro walked Quentin to load the bases with two out and Blanks up. If the Braves were to have much of a chance in the ninth they needed the out, and Varvaro got it with a strikeout.
Needing a run to tie in the ninth, the Braves couldn’t muster a baserunner as they struck out in order.
They had taken a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Andrelton Simmons led off with a single, advanced on a wild pitch, and scored on a two-out single by Freeman. He raised his average to .440 (11-for-25) with runners in scoring position and two outs, while no other Braves regular was above .273 in that category.
Before Tuesday, the Braves had won 26 of 30 when they scored first, but one of those losses was a 10-inning, 2-1 defeat Friday at Los Angeles. Tuesday, they got their fifth loss after scoring first.
They had a chance to do more damage against Cashner in the first inning. But after McCann followed Freeman with another single to put runners on the corners, Uggla popped out.
“We swung the bats,” Gonzalez said. “B.J.’s ball, he had a good hack at it, but it didn’t go out. We hit the ball hard a couple of times at people. But it just didn’t happen tonight.”