Braves 8, Padres 0
Chipper Jones is getting that 1995 feeling again.
Jones, the Atlanta Braves' last link to their World Series championship team, says this year's squad boasts similar strengths and balance. The latest proof was the Braves' series win over San Diego in a matchup of first-place teams.
Tim Hudson dominated San Diego again, Alex Gonzalez capped his first homestand in Atlanta with four hits and the Braves beat the Padres 8-0 on Thursday.
''This team, the more I look at it, reminds me of the '95 team,'' said Jones, who had three hits. ''You don't have guys leading the league in any category, but you have evenly distributed production up and down the lineup. More often than not, the teams with that kind of production are going to win a lot of games.''
Gonzalez had hits in his first four at-bats to give him a streak of hits in six straight at-bats over two games, four shy of the Atlanta record.
''It felt good,'' Gonzalez said. ''I feel like part of the team. We've got to keep going.''
He struck out in the eighth to end the run, but still has hits in six of seven games since coming to the Braves in the July 14 swap of shortstops that sent Yunel Escobar to Toronto.
Even after Gonzalez drove in two runs with the four hits, his defense made the biggest impression on his new team.
''Watching Gonzalez play shortstop the last few days has really been special,'' said manager Bobby Cox.
Jones said Gonzalez is ''all about defense.''
''He's the Ozzie Vizquel, Ozzie Smith-type shortstop,'' Jones said. ''I know that's lofty praise, but that's how much I think of him.''
Hudson said Gonzalez ''has been a breath of fresh air on the field and in the clubhouse.''
Hudson (10-5) allowed only four hits in seven scoreless innings. He is 5-0 in nine career appearances against the Padres, including two wins this season.
By winning two of three from the Padres, the Braves claimed an edge over San Diego (55-39) for the best record in the National League. The Braves have lost only one of their last 21 series since May 10, going 16-1-4 in that span.
''They're a very good team,'' said Padres starter Clayton Richard. ''When they have an opportunity, they take advantage of it.''
The Braves' only loss in the series came on Wednesday, when closer Billy Wagner blew a 4-2 lead in the ninth.
''We should have swept,'' Jones said. ''We know it. They know it.''
Gonzalez drove in Jones with a single in the first inning Thursday, and his double to center field drove in Matt Diaz in the third. He had a triple and a single in his last two at-bats of Wednesday night's 6-4, 12-inning loss to the Padres.
Jason Heyward had two hits and drove in two runs. He was 7 for 15 in the series.
The Braves led 4-0 before adding four runs in the seventh off Ryan Webb. David Ross had a run scoring-double and, with the bases loaded, pinch hitter Eric Hinske was hit by a pitch on his left foot to force in another run.
Hinske left the game with a bruised left foot. X-rays were negative. Cox said he hopes Hinske will be able to play Friday at Florida.
Heyward and Jones drove in runs with infield hits.
The Braves scored two runs in the first off Richard (7-5). Heyward drove in Melky Cabrera in the second after Cabrera's double.
Richard gave up nine hits and four runs, three earned, in six innings.
''He couldn't get into a rhythm early,'' said Padres manager Bud Black. ''He couldn't get any one pitch going that he could count on.''
Adrian Gonzalez, who was 0 for 6 with four strikeouts on Wednesday night, was 0 for 11 in the series before his single in the sixth.
The Padres loaded the bases with one out in the eighth off Mike Dunn. Nick Hundley's double-play grounder off Peter Moylan ended the inning.
NOTES: Diaz holds the Atlanta record with hits in 10 consecutive at-bats from Aug. 12-14, 2006. ... Padres OF Luis Durango's infield single in the third was the 14th hit of his major league career. Eight have been infield hits. He was 1-for-3. ... The Braves finished a stretch where they faced five left-handed starting pitchers in six of seven games. ... Hudson also took a 6-2 win at San Diego on April 15.