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Gaudin's up-and-down season continues

Gaudin's up-and-down season continues

SAN DIEGO -- Here it is, August, and the Padres are no closer to figuring out what they have in starting pitcher Chad Gaudin than they were that day in April when they signed him to a Minor League contract.

Eight quality starts. That's been the good from Gaudin. Six starts in which he has allowed six or more runs. That, clearly, has been the worst of the 20 appearances that Gaudin has made for San Diego.

One of those tempestuous outings came Wednesday, when Gaudin was hit for six runs in 3 1/3 innings as he dropped his 10th game, as the Braves raced away with a 6-2 victory over the Padres at PETCO Park.

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"He just couldn't string enough good pitches together. I saw a lot of deep counts," said Padres manager Bud Black of Gaudin. "Fastball command wasn't there, the changeup wasn't functional."

Gaudin was buried early as the Braves scored six runs over the first four innings. He allowed nine hits, marking the second successive rough start. He allowed seven runs (three earned) in 1 2/3 innings in his last start against Milwaukee.

The Padres like the fact that Gaudin has been durable (105 1/3 innings), as well as his strikeout-to-innings ratio (105 strikeouts), and the fact that, before Wednesday, he'd allowed fewer hits than innings (now 105). But there have been inconsistencies.

Gaudin is scheduled to start the first game of a six-game road trip on Tuesday against Milwaukee at Miller Park.

"Part of the mind-set is, you start getting behind hitters and you try to hit a perfect spot instead of attacking the zone," Gaudin said. "I guess that you can say I was nibbling."

The only bites came from the Braves (55-53), who had 14 hits a day after they scored nine runs on 17 hits.

Gaudin allowed a run on three hits and a walk in the first inning. He allowed three more hits in the second inning and, after retiring the side in order in the third inning, was gone after allowing three hits and getting only one out in the fourth inning.

While the Padres (44-65) were able to bail Gaudin out of his last start against Milwaukee when they rallied from a 7-1 deficit for a victory, that didn't happen Wednesday because rookie pitcher Tommy Hanson (6-2) kept them off-balance with a fastball that did reach 95 mph at times, as well as a nasty curveball.

"Tommy wasn't his best today, and he only gave up two runs," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "And he had some strikeouts, but he wasn't the real Tommy Hanson, I don't think. But we made some good double plays behind him and played a nice ballgame."

All told, Hanson allowed two runs on five hits with three walks and five strikeouts. He also benefited from getting Kevin Kouzmanoff to hit into doubles plays in three innings (first, fourth and sixth).

"He puts up a lot of zeroes. Generally, there is just one inning that he gives up runs. He's ahead of the ballgame maturity-wise and knowing what he's got on that particular day and trying to use it," Cox said.

The Padres scored twice in the sixth inning, again relying on the hottest bat in the lineup, who was, oddly enough, playing for Triple-A Portland when the season started.

Outfielder Will Venable hit a two-run home run off Hanson, turning on a fastball that was on the inside corner. It was his fifth home run in the past seven games. He had two hits in the game and is hitting .481 with 12 RBIs in that span.

"By no means do I think of myself as a power hitter," said Venable, who has hit a career-best 18 professional home runs this season, 12 with Portland. His previous best was 16 last season, in stops between Portland and San Diego.

"I think of myself as a hitter who puts the bat on the ball."

The Braves did their damage Wednesday without benefit of the long ball. Chipper Jones and Nate McLouth each had three hits. McLouth drove in two runs, as did Brian McCann.

Braves right fielder Ryan Church, who returned to action after missing six games with a sore right elbow, had two singles and a walk and threw out Chase Headley as he tried to tag up and score from third base on a flyout in the fifth inning.

While Church acknowledged that the TV replay showed that Headley got his foot in safely, he said jokingly, "That's what he got for trying to run on me."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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