SAN DIEGO — The Atlanta Braves’ ninth-inning deficit was much smaller than the night before, but on Tuesday night there would be no longball 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. In losing for the first time against the Padres, Tim Hudson (4-6) was charged with three runs and five hits in 7 1/3 innings. He lost his fifth consecutive road start and 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.
Cashner limited the Braves to six hits and two runs in eight innings, 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.
Hudson had never lost to the Padres, entering with a 6-0 record and 2.70 ERA in 12 games (11 starts) against them. But he also came in lugging a 1-5 record in seven road starts this season, including 0-4 with 7.48 ERA in the past four.
After the Braves staked him to a 1-0 lead in on Freddie Freeman’s two-out single in the first inning, Hudson gave it back on a homer by Chase Headley in the bottom of the first. The Padres third baseman had batted .162 with one homer and seven RBIs in 28 games before homering on Hudson’s 1-2 splitter that stayed over the plate.
The Padres added a run apiece in the second and third innings, and the score stayed 3-1 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. “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 Padres’ second-inning run scored when Upton made an awkward sliding-catch attempt coming in on a Nick Hundley’s two-out pop fly near the left-field line. Kyle Blanks had drawn a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a groundout, and he was going on contact on the Hundley pop-up and scored easily after Upton couldn’t come up with it.
“He went a long way for that ball,” Gonzalez said of his left fielder. “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 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 pitcher buckled down and got into a groove.
Hudson retired the next 13 batters, including six strikeouts, before Jesus Guzman’s pinch-hit single leading off the eighth inning. After a sacrifice bunt, 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 slugger Kyle Blanks up next. If the Braves were to have much of a chance in the ninth they needed the out, and Varvaro got it by striking out Blanks to end the inning and leave the bases loaded.
The Braves took 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 Freddie 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 games when they scored first, with one of those losses a 10-inning, 2-1 defeat Friday at Los Angeles.
They had a chance to do more damage against Cashner in the first inning. But after Brian McCann followed Freeman with another single to put runners on the corners, Dan Uggla popped out to end the inning.
Cashner has a 3.47 ERA in 10 starts since moving from the bullpen, and he’s 4-1 with a 3.17 ERA in his past seven starts, including six Padres wins.
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