The Atlanta Braves may not want to take the San Diego Padres too lightly when the clubs open a three-game series this evening from Petco Park.
While the Braves appear to be headed for a postseason berth, the Padres, who will most likely miss the playoffs for a sixth straight year, are riding a seven-game winning streak.
Atlanta earned a split of its four-game series against the San Francisco Giants with last night's 7-1 victory at AT&T Park. Tim Hudson outdueled two- time NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum by hurling seven innings of one-run ball with three strikeouts and one walk. Jonny Venters and Cristhian Martinez each threw a scoreless inning of relief.
"I was able to throw strikes and make those guys put it in play. It was a day where you definitely needed to pound the strike zone," said Hudson, who contributed two hits at the plate.
Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman and Juan Francisco all homered, while Brian McCann contributed three hits, a run scored and an RBI for the Braves, who lead the Wild Card and sit 4 1/2 games behind Washington in the NL East.
The Braves are 3-4 on a 10-game road trip. Veteran third baseman Chipper Jones hopes to return to the starting lineup Monday or Tuesday, and has been dealing with a sore left oblique muscle. Jones was used as a pinch-hitter on Sunday.
Left-hander Paul Maholm will handle pitching duties for Atlanta this evening and is 2-2 with a 2.40 earned run average in four starts with the club. Acquired from the Chicago Cubs back in July, Maholm was dealt a loss in last Tuesday's 4-1 setback at Washington and gave up four runs in seven innings.
Maholm has lasted at least seven innings in four straight appearances, and defeated San Diego on Aug. 15 with seven innings of one-run ball in a 6-1 decision. He is just 1-4 with a 4.24 ERA in six career starts against the Padres.
The Padres will try to continue their success against Maholm when they put a season-high seven-game winning streak on the line. They completed a three-game sweep of Arizona with a 5-4 triumph Sunday afternoon behind seven solid innings from Edinson Volquez, who held the Diamondbacks to two runs in seven innings. He also scattered four hits, struck out seven and issued two walks.
"We're playing pretty good right now," Volquez said afterward. "Hitting, pitching and defense. It was good to win three games here."
Luke Gregerson struck out two in 1 1/3 innings of relief for the save.
Alexi Amarista, Carlos Quentin, Mark Kotsay, Yasmani Grandal and Yonder Alonso all drove in runs with two outs for San Diego. The Padres are 40-30 since early June and hope to keep up the momentum when Casey Kelly makes his major league debut on the mound tonight. The top prospect, who is replacing injured starter Jason Marquis in the rotation, was acquired with Anthony Rizzo as part of the trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez to Boston.
Kelly had experienced issues with his right elbow, but is ready for Monday.
"It's much anticipated and Casey is ready," Padres manager Bud Black told the club's website. "He's been in our environment before. He was up September but not activated and he's been around a couple of years in Spring Training so he knows the guys. He's looking forward to it, as are we."
Kelly was a first-round pick of the Red Sox in 2008 (30th overall).
The Padres recently lost three of four meetings with Atlanta from Aug. 13-16 at Turner Field.