ATLANTA (AP) -- After struggling to a 6-6 record against NL West teams on their longest homestand of the season, the Atlanta Braves
should realize the rest of the season is going to be just as tough, according to Chipper Jones.
"Maybe some people in here thought we were going to glide into the playoffs, but it ain't going to happen," Jones said after the Braves, helped by three San Diego errors, rallied past the Padres 6-2 on Sunday night.Two of the Padres' errors came in the eighth inning, when the Braves scored five runs to salvage a win in the three-game series. Three of the runs were unearned."There are too many good teams in the league," Jones said. "We let an opportunity slide in this homestand."The Padres led 2-1 after scoring two runs off John Smoltz in the seventh.Marcus Giles led off the eighth with a single off reliever Akinori Otsuka (1-5) and moved to third on Jones' double to center. Damian Jackson then bobbled Andruw Jones' grounder for an error, allowing Giles to score to tie the game as Jones beat the late throw at first.Both runners advanced on Adam LaRoche's deep fly to left field. Otsuka issued an intentional walk to Jeff Francoeur to load the bases -- giving the rookie his first walk after 127 at-bats. Ryan Langerhans followed with a grounder to Mark Sweeney at first -- ruled an infield hit that drove in Chipper Jones. Sweeney threw wildly to home for the second error of the inning, allowing Andruw Jones to follow Chipper Jones across the plate.Brian McCann drove in Francoeur with a sacrifice fly to center, and pinch-hitter Julio Franco drove in Langerhans with a single to right."The ball got a little hot in that inning," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "We did hit the ball well in that inning also, but we finally caught a break. ... We needed to beat them once, anyway."Jorge Sosa (8-2) earned the win in relief.With the comeback, the Braves snapped a three-game losing streak and protected their 3½-game lead over second-place Philadelphia in the NL East.The Padres (61-62) fell back below .500 but still lead the NL West by four games."We broke down in the eighth inning," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. "That opened up the floodgates. ... We were playing flawless ball until the eighth."According to Braves records, the Padres could have become the first National League team to sweep a season series from the Braves since they moved to Atlanta in 1966."I didn't know that; I'm glad you didn't tell me before the game," Chipper Jones said. "I'm glad we could avoid that from being a hot topic in the morning."The Padres swept three games from the Braves in San Diego from May 16-18 before taking the first two games of this weekend's series.The Braves now play the Padres only six times each year. Until the schedule format changed recently, the teams met 18 times each season.The Padres took a 2-1 lead on Sweeney's pinch-hit two-run single off Smoltz in the seventh inning. Sweeney, hitting for pitcher Brian Lawrence, drove in Xavier Nady, who doubled, and Jackson, who walked, with a single to center.Smoltz drove in McCann from first with a fifth-inning triple to give the Braves a 1-0 lead."Bobby told me to drive the runner in," Smoltz said. "It was awesome McCann was able to score on that."Smoltz gave up eight hits and two runs in seven innings. He walked two and struck out five."I've been busting it," Smoltz said. "This is as much as I've battled for a long time. It was a playoff game for me."Smoltz has made 12 starts after Braves losses. He is 8-1 and the team is 10-2 in those games.Lawrence gave up five hits and one run in six innings. He walked three and struck out four and escaped a fourth-inning bases-loaded jam without allowing a run."We fought hard for pretty much the whole game, and then it slipped away," Lawrence said.The Braves did not have a hit off Lawrence until the fourth inning, when they loaded the bases with no outs on a leadoff double by Rafael Furcal, a bunt single by Giles and a walk to Chipper Jones. Lawrence struck out Andruw Jones and then ended the inning with a double-play grounder to short from LaRoche.
The triple for Smoltz was the second of his career. His first triple came on April 6, 1989, at Houston. The 1989 season was his first full season in the majors. ... The Padres completed a 4-2 road trip.