MLB

Padres, Braves in rubber match Thursday night

SAN DIEGO -- The surprising Atlanta Braves will aim for their fifth consecutive series win when they play the San Diego Padres on Thursday.

The final outing of the three-game series will match veteran Atlanta left-hander Jaime Garcia (2-5, 4.03 ERA) against rookie San Diego righty Dinelson Lamet (2-2, 6.60). The teams split the first two games, with the Padres winning 7-4 on Wednesday.

The Braves (37-40) sit in second place in the National League East despite missing All-Star infielder Freddie Freeman. He has been out since mid-May with a wrist injury, but the team is encouraged that he took batting practice on Wednesday. Freeman could head out for a rehab assignment this weekend.

While Freeman was away, the Braves didn't go away. There is no question they are in rebuild mode, but along with the growing pains has come a decent stretch of success.

"It's been very encouraging," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "Things have settled in, and we have played pretty good baseball."

Garcia was pretty good against the Padres on April 17. He didn't get the win, but he had a big role in the Braves prevailing 5-4 as he hurled 6 1/3 innings and surrendered two runs on five hits.

Overall, Garcia is 2-1 in seven career starts vs. the Padres. His last win against San Diego came last year, when he was with the St. Louis Cardinals and allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings.

"He is a very competitive guy; that is what I remember when we used to face him with the Cardinals," Snitker said. "He knows what he is doing."

Garcia is looking for just his second win in 10 starts. However, in three of the four no-decisions he had over that span, the Braves won.

"He has done exactly what we had hoped he would do," Snitker said. "He's a guy that extends a game for you, goes deep into a game. And he's durable.

"He's had some inconsistencies, I guess, but he's got on a little roll. He is throwing the ball over the plate more. I look at that guy when he is throwing it over, and I don't know how they hit him. Everything is darting and cutting and moving so much."

The Padres (32-46) hope Lamet will find a groove.

"Two good outings, two rough ones, two good ones," Padres manager Andy Green said. "We'd really like for him to have another good outing and get him to where he is consistent at that level."

Lamet has gone at least five innings in all but one of his six outings. He started with two consecutive wins, took two losses and then spun two no-decisions in games the Padres won.

"It's just strikes for him and powering through that slider," Green said. "I suspect in his journey there are going to be ups and downs early on.

"The reality of where he is right now is that I couldn't look you in the face and tell you which version we are getting. But the ceiling on him -- and I have a great deal of confidence in saying this -- is incredibly high. He will go through the ups and downs for a while. But the ups will be really, really exciting."