The Atlanta Braves are in need of a win to stop their West Coast slide before it reaches an alarming level.
They might have the right arm in charge Saturday night against the San Diego Padres as they try to avoid a fifth loss in as many tries on an eight-game road trip.
Ervin Santana dominated the Padres (49-60) earlier in the week, tossing eight innings of five-hit ball while matching a career high with 11 strikeouts in Monday’s 2-0 win.
Santana (10-6, 3.63 ERA) has won his last three starts with a 1.69 ERA and dominated in his last two with a run and 11 hits allowed while striking out 21 over 15 1-3 innings.
"He’s just pitching good baseball right now," manager Fredi Gonzalez told MLB’s official website. "He’s throwing his breaking pitches for strikes and then expanding with his breaking pitches and making them a lot of swings and misses."
The right-hander is 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA and .197 opponent average in three starts versus San Diego. Against Santana, Seth Smith (3 for 16 with seven strikeouts), former Brave Jeff Francoeur (2 for 15) and Alexi Amarista (0 for 7) have all struggled.
After beating the Padres in three of four in Atlanta, the Braves (58-52) haven’t won in the opening half of their trip while getting held to eight runs. They were swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers and lost 10-1 in Friday’s opener in San Diego, their fifth straight loss there.
The pitching has been bordering on embarrassing during the four-game skid with a 6.27 ERA and .354 opponent average after the Padres clubbed a season-high 20 hits. Seven innings of relief have resulted in a 14.14 ERA and .537 average.
San Diego’s Ian Kennedy (8-9, 3.66) has had no such trouble lately. Before missing his last turn in the rotation due to left oblique soreness, he’d put together a strong July with a 3-0 record and a 2.53 ERA in five starts.
He’s also 3-0 in his last five home outings thanks greatly to a 5.14 run support average, compared to 2.21 through his first six as he went 0-5.
Against Atlanta, Kennedy is 2-0 with a 3.79 ERA in six starts. Freddie Freeman is 5 for 8 with a home run in their matchups, Justin Upton is 3 for 6 with a homer and Andrelton Simmons is hitless in eight at-bats.
The Padres returned from Atlanta and took two of three from St. Louis, putting them in line for a third straight series win at home, where they’re 10-4 since June 29. Pittsburgh is the only NL team with a better home winning percentage in that time.
San Diego hit .212 at home through June but has since batted .282 in 12 games at Petco Park.
Friday’s hit total was the franchise’s best since having 20 on Sept. 2, 2012, and featured a 5-for-5, two-home run night from Tommy Medica after borrowing one of Yasmani Grandal’s 35-inch, 32-ounce bats. The rookie first baseman is 13 for 26 with eight RBIs over his last seven games.
"Can he borrow it tomorrow?" manager Bud Black asked.
Teammate Jedd Gyorko is about as hot, going 8 for 19 with two doubles, two homers and seven RBIs in five games since returning from the disabled list.
Grandal has missed two games with fluid in his right knee.
Braves right fielder Jason Heyward has been out for four with back stiffness. Newly acquired Emilio Bonifacio started in right and went 0 for 2 with two walks in his first action with the Braves.