Padres' pitching unravels in loss

Padres' pitching unravels in loss

SAN DIEGO -- In order to gain a little momentum heading into the All-Star break, the San Diego Padres were looking for a series-clinching win against the Atlanta Braves at home. So, they put the ball in the left hand of Randy Wolf. Only when Wolf went to the throw the ball, a curveball slipped out, hitting Braves leadoff hitter Gregor Blanco.

"The inning kind of got away from me," Wolf said. "That was kind of the way the game was. If I make a good pitch there, the inning would be a lot different."

Blanco got on base to start the first inning, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Martin Prado, Chipper Jones walked and then Mark Teixeira hit a two-run double. Two batters later, Brian McCann hit an RBI single to give the Braves an early three-run lead that would never be threatened as they cruised to a 12-3 victory at PETCO Park on Sunday.

"It took him after the first two innings to get on track," said manager Bud Black. "His pitch count got up a little bit up in the first [when he threw 29 pitches.] I thought he got out of the second inning OK, and in 3-4-5, I thought he threw the ball well. He'd pitched five innings and given up four hits with three runs."

The bottom of the first inning saw the Padres cut into the lead after three of the first four batters singled capped by a Kevin Kouzmanoff RBI single to left to score Scott Hairston.

As the second inning approached, Wolf gathered himself in a 1-2-3 inning. The second through fourth innings only saw two singles present any sort of damage to the Padres, even though they were dealing with their own struggles against the Braves' Jorge Campillo.

Then came the sixth inning.

Jeff Francoeur hit a single. McCann was hit by a pitch. Mark Kotsay singled in Francoeur, signaling in the end of the Wolf's day.

Cla Meredith relieved Wolf, but the Braves didn't mind the switch. They just continued to hit singles.

Brent Lillibridge hit an RBI single, scoring McCann. Meredith struck out Campillo, but gave up an RBI single to Blanco that scored Kotsay. Prado followed with an RBI single of his own that scoreed Lillibridge to end Meredith's day.

Bryan Corey came in for the Padres. His seventh pitch to Jones turned into a sacrifice fly that scored Blanco. Teixeira struck out to end the inning.

Nine batters, five singles, five runs on three pitchers, and the Braves led 8-1.

"I'm not going to sit here and say it was easy. Obviously, it wasn't," said Wolf, who allowed six runs on six hits in five innings. "They haven't played very well on the road lately but I think they're a pretty good team. Obviously with Teixeira, Chipper and McCann, they have a good lineup. Like I always say, if you pitch your game you're going to be successful and obviously, I wasn't successful today."

Kouzmanoff homered in the bottom of the inning to take some of the sting out of the crowd's response to the top of the sixth, but the damage had been done. With the way the Padres have swung the bats, the game was technically over after that sixth inning.

McCann, whom Black and the Padres pitchers recognized throughout the series as the hottest bat in the Braves' lineup, added to the lead in the seventh with a home run off reliever Josh Banks to make the score 9-1, then doubled in a run in the ninth inning off Cha Seung Baek to make it 10-1. Another RBI double by Lillibridge off Baek and an RBI single by Kelly Johnson off Joe Thatcher and the Braves had finished putting 12 runs across the plate against six Padres pitchers.

"They swung the bats," Black said. "They've been sort of quiet with the bats lately but it was one of those games where they broke out today."

A nine-run loss is not what the Padres wanted heading into the All-Star break, but they will take advantage of the days off.

"I think it'll be mostly a mental break but we could use a mental and physical break," Hairston said. "Things really haven't gone our way the last few weeks. It's hard. This game will wear at you. But it's a game, so we just have to go out there and bust our tails and let the game come to us."

The second half of the season still presents a lot of baseball to be played. Just think of the All-Star break as the refresh button.

"These next couple of days I think the guys will be able to take a step back and exhale a little bit," said Black, whose team plays the St. Louis Cardinals when it returns to the field. "Get baseball off their minds for a day or two and then jump on the plane Wednesday and realize that we have a lot of baseball left. These guys are professional players, they know what's at stake here. This is their careers and they'll come out playing on Thursday night."

Ronald P. Clark is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.