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.
|San Diego Padres|
|August 11, 2012||Huston Street||15-Day DL||Strained left calf|
|July 31, 2012||Yasmani Grandal||15-Day DL||Strained oblique|
|July 28, 2012||Joe Thatcher||Day-to-Day||Sore right knee|
|July 26, 2012||Joe Thatcher||15-Day DL||Right knee tendinitis|
|July 18, 2012||Cameron Maybin||Day-to-Day||Sore right wrist|
|July 04, 2012||Andrew Cashner||15-Day DL||Strained muscle in right side|
|August 10, 2012||Chipper Jones||Day-to-Day||Back tightness|
|August 01, 2012||Jair Jurrjens||15-Day DL||Strained right groin|
|July 31, 2012||Tommy Hanson||15-Day DL||Lower back strain|
|July 20, 2012||Matt Diaz||15-Day DL||Right thumb contusion|
|July 14, 2012||Jack Wilson||15-Day DL||Dislocated right pinkie finger|
|July 09, 2012||Andrelton Simmons||Day-to-Day||Broken right pinkie|
ATLANTA (AP) -- San Diego manager Bud Black called Eric Stults ' performance classic pitching.
The Atlanta Braves called it frustrating.
Stults combined with two relievers on a five-hitter, Chase Headley homered and drove in two runs and the Padres beat Atlanta 4-1 on Monday night.
Stults (3-2) gave up five hits and one run in 7 2-3 innings - his longest start in three years. While with the Dodgers, Stults beat the Giants 8-0 on May 9, 2009, his last complete game.
Stults kept his pitch count low early in the game against Atlanta's impatient hitters.
"They were swinging early in counts," Stults said. "I was able to get some quick outs, which allowed me to go deeper into the game."
Stults' curveballs were clocked in the mid-60s, making his high-80s fastball look faster. That range helped keep Atlanta's batters off-balance.
"He frustrated us," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He got us out of our normal game plan of seeing pitches and working the count a little bit.
"He really, really was frustrating. We just weren't our normal selves."
The Padres, who had a six-game winning streak snapped on Sunday, have won eight of 10 for the first time this season.
Stults pitched for Los Angeles from 2006-09 and appeared in six games with Colorado in 2011. Any memories of Stults were too few and too faint to be of help to the Braves.
"It's the first time we've faced him," said Martin Prado , who actually was 2 for 4 in his career against the left-hander before Monday. "For me, I was trying to recognize what he had.
"He looked pretty good. He was mixing all his pitches in a real good way. We were trying to figure it out. The next time we've got to be patient, because he's one of those guys who can spot the ball."
Black said Stults' change of speeds made it difficult for the Braves.
"When you have a range like he did as far as velocity, 90 at the high end and 66 at the low, that's awful tough," Black said.
Stults did not walk a batter.
"He was spotting the ball well, in and out, up and down," Black said. "It really was classic pitching."
The weather conditions made Turner Field a pitcher's park. Rain delayed the start of the game for 25 minutes and left the air unusually cool. The first-pitch temperature was 71 degrees and the wind was blowing in.
Yonder Alonso had three hits and Chris Denorfia had two hits and scored two runs for the Padres.
Stults lost his bid for a shutout in the eighth when Michael Bourn singled and scored on Prado's triple into the right-field corner. Luke Gregerson struck out Jason Heyward to end the inning.
Dale Thayer pitched a perfect ninth for his sixth save.
Atlanta starter Mike Minor (6-9) gave up three runs and nine hits in six innings.
Stults has worked in relief and as a starter since he was claimed off waivers from the White Sox on May 17. He has won two straight starts, including 5 1-3 innings in a 2-0 win over the Cubs on Aug. 6.
Stults was dominant early, allowing only one hit in the first five innings. That was nothing new; in his first six starts with the White Sox and Padres, he had a 0.75 ERA in the first four innings. Stults' problems had come after the fourth, when he had a 6.94 ERA.
This time, Stults retained his edge longer into the game.
The Braves' first threat came in the fourth, when Heyward reached on first baseman Alonso's fielding error with two outs and moved to third on Chipper Jones ' single to left. Freddie Freeman 's groundout ended the inning.
Prado and Heyward had consecutive singles with two outs in the sixth before Jones ended the inning with a fly ball to center.
Denorfia led off the second with a double and later scored on Cameron Maybin 's sacrifice fly. Denorfia led off the sixth with a triple and scored on Alonso's single.
Stults singled in the sixth and scored on a single by Headley, who was thrown out as he tried to advance to second. Headley hit his 19th homer off Chad Durbin in the seventh.
NOTES: When RHP Tommy Hanson (strained lower back) comes off the 15-day DL to start Friday against the Dodgers, the Braves will move to a six-man rotation for about two weeks. Gonzalez said he will pick the five best - or healthiest - for September. ... Braves SS Jack Wilson , who has been on the 15-day DL with a dislocated right little finger, aggravated the injury in a rehab game with Triple-A Gwinnett and was back in Atlanta to have the finger examined. ... Headley was named NL player of the week after hitting .333 with three homers and 11 RBIs for the period ending Sunday. ... Padres LHP Clayton Richard , coming off a shutout of the Cubs, will start against Braves RHP Tim Hudson on Tuesday night.