With six straight losses to begin this trip, the Braves now find themselves 3 1/2 games behind the first-place Nationals in the National League East race. They were staring at the possibility of scoring two runs or less in a fifth straight game until Jason Heyward capped a successful day by willing himself to score a game-tying run in the ninth inning.
Heyward, who finished a home run shy of the cycle, doubled to begin the ninth against closer Joaquin Benoit and then used his speed to score when Evan Gattis followed with a chopper back the mound. Benoit's late and errant throw to third base allowed Heyward to race toward the plate with the tying run.
But the Padres delivered the final blow one inning later even after David Hale had turned Rene Rivera's sacrifice bunt attempt into a double play. Two batters later, Everth Cabrera sent a game-ending single past a diving Braves second baseman Tommy La Stella.
"When you're not scoring runs and you're going through those spells, everything gets exposed a little bit," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We had some opportunities,"
The Braves have hit .169 (10-for-59) during their six-game losing streak. But the numbers do not accurately show the ugly manner in which they have squandered chances, especially in their two most recent games.
After tallying just three hits though the first six innings, the Braves finally got to All-Star pitcher Tyson Ross in the seventh inning. Justin Upton drew a four-pitch walk to open the frame and then scored on Heyward's triple. Heyward scored when Gattis followed with a double. But Gattis was left flat-footed as he got a bad read when Johnson followed with a double off the left-center-field wall.
Consequently, Gattis only advanced to third base on a hit that should have scored him in uncontested fashion. The baserunning blunder was magnified when he was still on third base when B.J. Upton ended the inning with a 5-2-3 double play.
"I just had too much on my mind. ... I [messed] up and made a mistake," Gattis said. "That's what I'm most [upset about]. I feel like we win this game if I don't."
This was, incredibly, the second time in less than 24 hours that the Braves did not score after loading the bases with none out. They had also come up empty during the eighth inning of Saturday's 12-inning loss.
"That's the second day in a row," Gonzalez said. "You feel like we have some good at-bats coming in there. Then we didn't get anything again. All you're looking for is a ball that gets out of the infield."
Heyward's ninth-inning dash around the bases erased the damage created when Tommy Medica gave the Padres a short-lived lead with an eighth-inning homer off Anthony Varvaro. Medica batted .481 with three home runs in seven games against the Braves this year.
With the two-run seventh, the Braves erased all of the damage incurred by San Diego native Aaron Harang, who scattered five hits over six innings. Harang had only himself to blame when he allowed Ross, a .146 hitter, to help himself with an RBI single in the second inning. The Braves veteran also walked Ross before allowing Cabrera's one-out sacrifice fly in the fourth inning.
"They're a pesky team over there," said Harang, a former Padre. "I got to play over there. That's their philosophy. They have a lot of guys who make the starter throw a lot of pitches and raise the pitch count real quick. They never let you get in a groove."