Padres 5, Braves 4

Mat Latos says people shouldn’t count out the San Diego
Padres.

Yes, his team is seven games under .500, but San Diego’s ace
thinks the Padres are capable of making a second-half run in the
National League West.

”We have a lot of confidence,” Latos said, ”but we also
believe we can do a lot better.”

Ryan Ludwick had an RBI single in the three-run seventh, Heath
Bell struggled to earn a fourth straight save and the Padres beat
the Atlanta Braves 5-4 on Tuesday night for their season-high
fourth consecutive victory.

The Padres haven’t won four consecutive games since they had a
five-game streak last Aug. 15-19. They also took a series against
the Braves for just the second time in the last 13 tries.

Ludwick, who went 4 for 5, has hit safely in 15 of 18 games,
raising his batting average 77 points to .258 since May 10. He
finished the month with 23 RBIs.

”You see a real confident player now,” San Diego manager Bud
Black said. ”He’s making hard contact with the ball.”

Bell survived a tough ninth to earn his 14th in 15 chances. He
retired pinch-hitter Joe Mather on foul popup before walking walked
Jordan Schafer and getting Martin Prado to fly out before Chipper
Jones’ RBI single scored Schafer from second.

Bell forced Brian McCann to fly out to end it, marking the
second time in his career, and first since last Aug. 10-13, that he
got a save in four straight games.

Latos (3-6) allowed five hits and two runs with four walks and
seven strikeouts in six innings.

”My fastball command wasn’t there as much as I’d like,” the
right-hander said. ”Earlier, I was getting behind in the count too
much.”

Latos lowered his ERA 11 points to 3.97 and closed May with a
3-2 record and a 3.38 ERA.

”It wasn’t smooth sailing from the outset,” Black said. ”He
was in position to have some short innings but couldn’t put guys
away. I thought the hard slider was his good pitch later in the
game tonight, the one he throws with velocity. When he has good
depth to it, they swing over the top and miss it.”

San Diego, which finished with 14 hits, took a 5-2 lead in the
seventh with RBI singles off rookie reliever Cory Gearrin from
Chris Denorfia, Ludwick and Jorge Cantu.

Denorfia went 3 for 5 and scored two runs.

San Diego took a 1-0 lead in the third on an RBI double from
Chase Headley that scored Jason Bartlett from first.

Freddie Freeman put the Braves ahead 2-1 with a two-run double
that scored Brian McCann from second and Eric Hinske from
first.

Mike Minor (0-2) couldn’t hold a one-run lead in the fourth.
Denorfia led off with a double, moved to third on Bartlett’s single
and scored to make it 2-2 on Headley’s double-play groundout.

Minor, who was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett after the game,
faced one batter in the seventh, walking leadoff pinch-hitter Eric
Patterson before Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez brought in
Gearrin.

In six innings, Minor allowed eight hits and three runs with
three walks and four strikeouts. He dropped to 0-3 with a 7.23 ERA
in his last seven starts, a span that began last Sept. 5.

”They were staying on pitches,” Minor said. ”I threw a couple
good pitches and they hit them pretty hard. They’re good hitters.
The breaking ball obviously wasn’t there again. I was throwing a
lot of fastballs in.”

Jones followed in the Braves’ seventh with an RBI single off San
Diego’s first reliever, Luke Gregorson, to make it 5-3. Left-hander
Cory Luebke recorded the third out with a three-pitch strikeout of
Brian McCann.

Freeman went 3 for 4. He and Jones were the only Braves with
more than one hit.

Notes: Padres CF Cameron Maybin underwent an MRI that showed no
structural damage in his right knee, but Black said he will go on
the 15-day disabled list Wednesday. OF Aaron Cunningham will be
called up from Triple-A Tucson to take Maybin’s place on the
roster. … Slumping Braves 2B Dan Uggla, whose average dropped to
.178 in Monday’s loss, was held out of the lineup. He pinch-ran for
Jones in the ninth. … Minor’s first career hit in the third,
erased by Schafer’s double-play groundout. … Prado ended a
19-game hitting streak at Turner Field, going 0 for 4.