If the Braves looked a little sluggish Monday night, it’s probably because they were.
Their flight landed in Atlanta about 3 a.m. after they played the Sunday night ESPN game in New York. They were the one looking like a team just in from the west coast.
The San Diego Padres came in fresh and not just from a late-afternoon flight from Pittsburgh, but from three straight series wins over the Mets, Cubs and Pirates. The resurgent Padres continued their good work Monday at Turner Field with a 4-1 win over the Braves.
The Braves opened a seven-game homestand against the Padres and Dodgers with a dud. They fell to 2-13 on Mondays, losing for the first time in three straight Mondays while they’ve worn their socks up for luck.
The Braves lost for only the fifth time in their past 19 games and for the first time in back-to-back games since July 22 and 23.
Left-hander Eric Stults was just the kind of pitcher to get under the Braves skin, mixing in a host of offspeed pitches – including some 67 mph curveballs – to keep a weary and maybe impatient team from mustering much.
“He frustrated us,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He got us out of our normal game plan of seeing pitches and working the count a little bit, getting deep in the count….We weren’t our normal selves.”
The Braves managed only one hit through the first five innings on a Chipper Jones single to left and three hits through the first seven innings. They didn’t score until Stults made his 101st pitch of the night to Martin Prado in the eighth. Prado tripled to right field to score Michael Bourn, who’s reached on a two-out infield hit.
“Sometimes you look up on the radar and you see 69 (mph) and 78 and 86 and you think, ‘Man this guy doesn’t have much,’” Jones said. “But when you’re locating and changing speeds, and staying ahead of hitters, it’s a pretty good formula for being effective that night. He was certainly that.”
Stults had pitched 13 scoreless innings in two starts since moving back into the Padres rotation from the bullpen until those back-to-back hits by Bourn and Prado. Now 3-2 with a 2.41 ERA as a Padres starter, he won for the first time in two starts against the Braves in his first start against them since 2009 with the Dodgers.
“Everybody came back (to the dugout) saying the same thing, ‘Ah, just missed it,’” said Jones, who felt like he “just missed” on a flyout to center to strand two runners in the sixth. “At some point, how about somebody not missing it.”
The Braves came only four outs away from being shut out for the second time in a week, after Cole Hamels pitched a complete-game shutout against them Tuesday in Philadelphia, the last time Mike Minor started.
For the second straight outing, Minor was good but not quite good enough and left trailing 3-0. He gave up three runs in the first inning of a 3-0 loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday and followed that up Monday by allowing three runs in six innings against the Padres.
This time it wasn’t one inning that got him but allowing the leadoff man to reach in four of the six innings he pitched. The leadoff man scored three times, including twice after Chris Denorfia had lead off with extra-base hits and once when pitcher Stults singled.
Minor didn’t walk a batter, he hit one and struck out three but gave up nine hits.
The Padres chipped away at him, using a double past a back-handed try from Jones to manufacture a run in the second inning. Minor struck out Nick Hundley to wriggle out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth inning but the Padres came back with another run in the fifth after Stults led off with a single.
“I feel like there was a lot of bad luck tonight and a mixture of good hitting on their part, putting the ball in play,” said Minor, who is 2-3 despite a 2.45 ERA in his past seven starts since July 5. “But I feel like I made some quality pitches and just didn’t have good outcomes.”
Padres third baseman Chase Headley, just named National League player of the week Monday afternoon, continued his hot streak by going 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs. His solo shot off reliever Chad Durbin in the seventh gave him four home runs and 12 RBIs in his past seven games.