Volquez struggles as Padres lose to Braves

Volquez struggles as Padres lose to Braves

Volquez struggles as Padres lose to Braves
ATLANTA -- The first four months of Edinson Volquez's season have been a mishmash of contradictions; maddening stretches where his command was amiss, as well as extended periods where his stuff rated as electric and unrivaled among his peers.

Lately though, Volquez has simply struggled, and you would have to try hard to find any good in what has occurred over his last three starts. His latest struggle came Wednesday night against the Braves, when he failed to complete four innings for the third time in as many starts.

The result wasn't pretty, as Volquez allowed six runs and was gone early as the Braves rolled to a 6-1 victory over the Padres before a crowd of 16,302 at Turner Field.

"It's a situation where he doesn't feel real comfortable now with his mechanics," Padres manager Bud Black said of Volquez.

Volquez (7-9), who has made 25 starts this season, was touched for a three-run homer in the third inning by Dan Uggla. One inning later, Jason Heyward ended Volquez's night with a two-run double into the gap in right-center field.

"They hit the mistakes that Eddie gave them," Black said.

In his last three starts, Volquez has allowed 16 earned runs in a combined 8 2/3 innings. This from the same pitcher who tossed a one-hit shutout against the Astros on July 19 and hadn't allowed more than three runs in consecutive starts before his miserable stretch started on July 30 in Cincinnati.

But there might be some end in sight. The mechanical issues that bothered Volquez the most over his previous two starts -- losses to the Reds and Pirates -- might be closer to being solved.

Volquez, who has been focusing on standing more upright on his back leg in his delivery and keeping his head on a line toward home plate, felt he made some inroads Wednesday.

Just not enough of them to prevent the Braves (68-49) from scoring runs in bunches early.

"It is better now ... this was the first time in my last three games where I felt good," said Volquez, who allowed six runs on seven hits in 3 2/3 innings with two walks and five strikeouts.

"I made a mistake in keeping the ball up in the strike zone."

That was the case against Uggla, who fouled off a changeup on a full count to prolong his at-bat. The next pitch was supposed to be a fastball down, but the ball stayed up in the strike zone and Uggla hit it into the left-field seats.

"We were able to keep putting pressure on Volquez and we put up some crooked numbers," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez.

Across the way, Braves pitcher Paul Maholm (11-7) was cruising, allowing one run over seven innings on five hits with three walks and seven strikeouts.

Trailing 3-1, the Padres (52-67) had the bases loaded with one out in the fourth inning against Maholm, but Nick Hundley and Volquez struck out to end the inning.

Logan Forsythe gave the Padres their only run with his third home run of the season in the third inning. He finished with two hits, as did Carlos Quentin and Cameron Maybin. No other member of the Padres had a hit.

The Padres' bullpen of rookies Miles Mikolas, Cory Burns and Brad Brach combined for 4 1/3 scoreless innings as the trio allowed two hits with five strikeouts.

Brach struck out the side in the eighth inning, much like the way teammate and fellow rookie Tom Layne did on Tuesday.

"The bullpen did a nice job ... that was good to see," Black said.

As for Volquez, he was disappointed that he couldn't remain in the game longer. He understands that these type of short starts he's had -- 1 2/3 innings, 3 2/3 innings and again with 3 2/3 innings -- creates a drain on the bullpen.

"It's kind of frustrating," Volquez said. "I'm used to being deep in the game."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.