SAN DIEGO – A couple of glaring mistakes late and too many missed scoring opportunities – including a bases-loaded, no-outs situation in the 12th inning — doomed the Braves on Saturday, when Will Venable's one-out single in the 12th gave the Padres a 3-2 walk-off win and handed Atlanta its fifth consecutive loss to start an eight-game trip.
Closer Craig Kimbrel, in his second inning of work Saturday, walked three of the first four batters in the 12th before Venable singled over the head of right fielder Jason Heyward. The Padres poured from their dugout to celebrate, and the Braves fell to 9-15 in their past 24 games including 0-8 in games decided by one run.
The Braves failed to score after loading the bases with none out in the 12th inning when Evan Gattis grounded to third baseman Yangervis Solarte, who threw home to start a 5-2-3 double play. Chris Johnson grounded out to to end the inning.
Braves newcomer Emilio Bonifacio strayed too far off second base on Tommy La Stella’s one-out fly to shallow center in the 11th and was thrown out for an inning-ending double play.
After the Padres got a leadoff single from Rene Rivera the bottom of the inning against Kimbrel, and moved the runner to second on a sacrifice, Andrelton Simmons made a splendid play to field a ground ball and throw back across his body to second base to catch the unsuspecting Rivera too far off the base.
Gattis gunned down Everth Cabrera trying to steal second to end the inning and give the Braves a jolt of energy, and they appeared ready to capitalize in the 12th after getting a leadoff single from Freddie Freeman and a Justin Upton double to put two runners in scoring position with none out.
Jason Heyward was walked intentionally to set up a potential double play, but even the Padres couldn’t have expected to get a double play without giving up a run. But they got it, and the Braves were on their way to losing for the 15th time in their past 24 games, including an 0-8 record during that period in games decided by one run.
Heyward, back in the lineup after missing four games with a strained back, singled and scored the tying run in the eighth, then doubled to start the 10th. But after Gattis grounded out to the right side to move him over, Heyward was stranded when Chris Johnson struck out and Simmons popped out foul.
James Russell, the left-hander acquired along with Bonifacio from the Cubs in a Thursday trade, made his Braves debut in the ninth inning with the score tied and gave up a leadoff single to lefty hitter Alex Amarista. After a sacrifice bunt moved the potential winning run into scoring position. Russell intentionally walked Solarte before getting lefty Seth Smith to pop up for the second out.
David Carpenter replaced Russell and got Jedd Gyorko on a groundout to force extra innings.
Braves starter Ervin Santana got no decision and was charged with two runs, six hits and four walks in 6 2/3 innings.
After falling behind 5-0 in Friday’s embarrassing 10-1 series-opening loss, the Braves staked Santana to a 1-0 lead in the first inning Saturday. B.J. Upton drew a walk to start the game and scored on Freddie Freeman’s one-out double, drawing plenty of applause from the Freeman family-and-friends cheering section from nearby Orange County.
Until the eighth inning, there wasn’t much more in the way of offense to get excited about for any Braves fans in a crowd of 39,402. But after San Diego scored two in the top of the eighth – the second on a Jordan Walden wild pitch — to take a 2-1 lead, the Braves answered with a run in the bottom of the inning, another wild pitch factoring in along with a dubious decision by Andrelton Simmons.
Heyward singled with one out in the eighth and advanced on a wild pitch by reliever Kevin Quackenbush. After Gattis drew a walk, Chris Johnson singled to bring in the tying run.
The Braves had a chance to do more, with runners on the corners and one out. But Simmons made an ill-advised bunt attempt, pushing the ball hard toward first base, and Gattis was thrown out at the plate. It didn’t appear to be a squeeze attempt, as Gattis was not running on contact and didn’t seem aware Simmons intended to bunt.
When Ryan Doumit grounded out to end the eighth with two runners on, it was the seventh time the Braves left at least one runner on base and the third time they stranded two.
The tone was set in the first inning, when they had two on with one out and a 1-0 lead. Heyward grounded out and Gattis struck out. That was the first of five consecutive innings the Braves struck out to end the inning with at least one runner on against Padres starter Ian Kennedy.
Kennedy allowed five walks and two hits in five innings, but his seven strikeouts undermined the Braves.
Meanwhile, Santana also put on a clinic in how to get out of trouble, at least for most of the night.
The Padres have had the worst-hitting, lowest-scoring offense in the majors this season, but before Saturday their 71 runs in 14 games since the All-Star break were the most in the National League. They’d batted .296 in a 6-4 stretch, totaling 104 hits including games with 14, 13, 10 and 16 hits, topped by Friday’s 20-hit outburst in a 10-1 win against the Braves.
The only time they had scored fewer than two runs in their past 10 games was Monday’s 2-0 loss at Atlanta, when Santana limited them to five hits in eight innings with no walks and 11 strikeouts. The Padres put together plenty of failed scoring opportunities before finally cracking the Santana code in the seventh on three singles and a walk against him, then a wild pitch by Walden.
The Padres got consecutive one-out singles in the second inning, with Venable advancing to second base on the latter of those hits when right fielder Heyward threw to third base instead of the cutoff man.
San Diego had two in scoring position with one out, but Santana coaxed a fly out to shallow left field by Yonder Alonso, then intentionally walked Rivera and struck out Kennedy.
Santana walked two of the first three batters in the fourth inning, but again he got Alonso on a fly to left field for the second out before getting Rivera to ground out.
The Padres put two runners in scoring position with one out again in the sixth, and again Santana thwarted them. After hitting Jedd Gyorko with a pitch and surrendering a one-out double to Tommy Medica, Santana coaxed a fly out to shallow right field by Venable and struck out Alonso looking at a nasty breaking ball to end the inning.
That was the third consecutive time that Alonso came up with two on base and left them precisely where he found them.
The Padres were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position before Santana finally ran out of escape acts in the seventh.
After a leadoff single by Rivera, a sacrifice bunt and a ground out moved the runner to third. Yangervis Solarte shot a single through the left side of the infield to tie the score, 1-1.
Smith followed with another two-out single on a bouncer up the middle, and Santana was pulled after walking Jedd Gyorko to load the bases with two out. Walden bounced a wild pitch with Medica batting, letting in the go-ahead run.
For a complete postgame write-thru version of this story with quotes, go to MyAJC.com or use this link.
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