K. Johnson returns with flair as Braves top Padres
By Carlos Collazo and John Donovan
ATLANTA -- Kelly Johnson wasted no time getting back into pre-injury form. In his first game back since being activated, he helped spark the Braves to a 4-1 win over the Padres on Wednesday night, in the third of a four-game series at Turner Field. Johnson's one-out RBI in the second inning scored Nick Markakis and opened an Atlanta lead that wouldn't be relinquished.
"Solid baseball game, did a lot of stuff offensively," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. "Kelly comes back, those three hits helped us win the ballgame."
Johnson went 3-for-4 with an RBI, but said after the game he was just glad to be back with the team, and that he was extremely impressed with Atlanta starter Williams Perez.
"Perez pitched great -- unbelievable actually," he said. "Probably one of the more comfortable two-, three-run games I've been a part of."
Perez worked a few long innings during the start of this game (55 pitches through three innings), but managed to settle in (43 pitches through the final four) and go seven innings, limiting the Padres to one unearned run. Mainly working off of his two-seam fastball and upper-70s curve, Perez struck out five San Diego batters and walked just two.
The contact-oriented Braves' lineup harassed San Diego starter Tyson Ross throughout his six innings, managing nine hits and three runs. All of those hits were singles, but Ross gave up a hit in every inning except the first.
"They didn't hit the ball real hard," San Diego manager Bud Black said. "They just hit the ball in the right spots. Again."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED KJ's back baby: On his first day back with the Braves since being activated from the 15-day disabled list, Johnson sparked the Braves offense in the second inning with an RBI single that scored Markakis. Johnson finished the game 3-for-4 with an RBI, as well as a nice catch in left field that robbed Melvin Upton Jr. of a base hit. More >
"The win's most important for sure," Johnson said after the game, "[but] being back's nice."
Williams working (in the zone): The Braves rookie starter rebounded from his previous start (five innings, four earned runs) by tying a career-high with seven innings. He held the Padres to four hits and one unearned run, and managed to throw a slightly higher percentage of strikes (62 percent) than his last outing against the Pirates (57 percent), where he said a lack of fastball command led to his worst start of the season. Maybe most importantly, Perez walked just two batters after walking four and five in his last two starts, respectively.
The way it bounces: Both of the Braves' second-inning runs might have been avoided with better play by the Padres. San Diego third baseman Will Middlebrooks could not handle a grounder cleanly -- he had a shot at getting Atlanta runner Markakis at second, but had to settle instead for the out at first -- and the Braves capitalized with an RBI single immediately after. Then, with two outs, first baseman Yonder Alonso muffed a spinning bouncer down the line -- it was ruled a single -- to allow A.J. Pierzynski to reach. One wild pitch later, Pierzynski scored from second on a single to right.
They call him the streak:Cory Spangenberg, San Diego's second baseman of the present -- the team sent Jedd Gyorko to iron out his swing in Triple-A before Wednesday's game -- had three hits, including a pair of doubles, and figured in the only run of the night for the Padres. Spangenberg is hitting .327 (17-for-52) in his last 16 games, with three three-hit games, and .324 (25-of-77) on the road. His looping one-out RBI double to left in the fifth accounted for San Diego's sole score.
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Ross lasted six innings and gave up nine hits and three earned runs, but he didn't give up a home run. That makes eight straight starts for the Padres' right-hander without coughing up a long ball, the longest active streak for a starter in the Major Leagues.
"That was one of the turn-ons with him, with John Hart and our Minor League people who saw him. They said, 'This guy's got some moxie. He's got some composure, he doesn't rattle. He makes pitches.' And that's tough to teach … he's got a confidence about him." -- Gonzalez on the composure of Perez
"We had some 'loud outs.' I counted seven loud outs. And they made two diving plays. Middlebrooks hit a bullet to center with the bases loaded. Will had another line drive to center. Alonso hit one. Even Lexie [shortstop Alexi Amarista], the last out of the game, that ball was smoked. … But that's baseball. That happens." -- Black on bad breaks
WHAT'S NEXT Padres: San Diego will send right-hander Andrew Cashner (2-8, 4.05 ERA) to the mound against Atlanta to try to gain the split Thursday afternoon (12:10 ET). Cashner struck out 12 batters two starts ago, against the New York Mets, but he has a 10.45 ERA over his last two outings. Wil Myers is expected to be activated from the DL and play center field. More >
Braves: Atlanta will look for Julio Teheran to replicate his last start against the Pirates, when he found renewed success with his four-seam fastball and went a season high 7 1/3 innings. Teheran's fastball was livelier in that game, and he touched 93 and 94 throughout the outing.