ATLANTA– Through six innings against the Braves at SunTrust Park, not much had gone right for the Padres. They were down 3-2, their manager had been ejected, they had committed a couple of defensive miscues in the field, and they had stranded the bases loaded with nobody out in the second.
With the help of some clutch two-out hitting in the seventh, though, all was forgotten.
San Diego began the inning with two singles and a walk to load the bases with nobody out. Jose Pirela, who homered earlier in the contest, followed by grounding into a 1-2-3 double play. The Padres were flirting with the danger of stranding the bases loaded for the second time in the game.
Padres right fielder Hunter Renfroe, who was riding an 0-for-14 stretch, strode to the plate. Braves left-hander Sam Freeman started the at-bat by throwing the slugger three consecutive splitters to get ahead in the count 1-2.
On the next pitch, Renfroe put the bat on the ball, grounding a single up the middle to give his team the lead. It was a very impressive piece of hitting from a player who seems to be maturing at the plate. He clearly saw how the Braves were pitching him, got a pitch he could do something with, and delivered a big hit.
Christian Villanueva followed with a walk, which allowed Freddy Galvis to deliver the dagger: a three-run home run that carried over the left-center field fence to give San Diego a 7-3 lead.
The hits continued a trend that is becoming almost impossible to ignore. The Padres have been doing their best work with two outs and runners in scoring position throughout this winning stretch.
Galvis would add another hit and RBI in the ninth (also with two outs) as part of his first career 5-for-5 game.
The Padres shook off their early-game struggles with the bat, showcased resilience, and ended up with nine runs and 14 hits (6-for-14 with RISP) on the night.
“We kept creating opportunities until we finally got some big swings,” stated manager Andy Green. “Freddy was unbelievable tonight and fun to watch.”
The offense was not the only part of the Padres that showcased resilience, either. Starter Clayton Richard, who obviously did not have his best stuff, battled through six innings. He allowed six hits and three runs (two earned) in an outing that could have easily gone south very quickly. The veteran left-hander stranded runners on first and third in second and a leadoff triple and the bases loaded in the third.
“He fought hard tonight. Every inning we managed to put him in trouble early,” stated Green about his starter. “He battled through that trouble and made good pitches when he had to. A lot of pitchers would have gotten rattled with the things going on behind him, but he didn’t.”
Richard has now thrown at least six innings in eight consecutive starts. San Diego is 6-1 in Richard’s last seven outings.
“What we are doing now is stringing better baseball together on a more consistent basis,” said Green. “The bullpen we are able to run out has been very good at locking down games for us.”
Following Richard was Craig Stammen, who bounced back from a difficult outing two nights ago to pitch a perfect seventh. He handled the top of the Braves’ order, striking out two.
Jose Castillo pitched the final two innings, walking the first man he faced before retiring the final six to record the victory. In the ninth, he also recorded his first career RBI on a ground ball up the middle.
The Padres have now won 12 out of their last 17 games and are 26-21 since April 28. One win this weekend would ensure a winning 10-game road trip before they head home for a quick two-game homestand at Petco Park.