Mulholland pitched eight strong innings before Brian Jordan drove in the winning run in the ninth with a one-out single as the Braves completed a three-game sweep of San Diego, defeating the Padres 3-2 Sunday.
Mulholland, working for the third time in six games, left with the score tied 2-2, so he didn't factor in the decision. But his importance to the Braves is growing by the day, especially with Greg Maddux's status uncertain because of a chipped bone in his pitching wrist.
For Mulholland, that meant a start last Tuesday against Colorado, where he took the loss despite allowing only three runs in seven innings at Coors Field. Two days later, the 36-year-old left-hander pitched the 14th inning of Atlanta's 9-7 victory to earn a save.
He started again Sunday, throwing 95 pitches and allowing just six hits to the Padres, and he could be back on the mound Friday if Maddux's wrist doesn't improve. In the meantime, Mulholland will be ready in the bullpen if needed.
"They got me here because I'm versatile and could feel two holes for them," he said. "As long as I'm physically capable of doing that, I feel it keeps me sharper as a pitcher."
The Braves, winning for the 23rd time in their final at-bat, began the day two percentage points behind New York in the NL East. The Mets won the first game of a doubleheader against St. Louis, rallying from fie runs down for an 8-7 victory.
San Diego, the lowest-scoring team in the NL, managed just seven runs in three games against the Braves, who won twice in their final bat. The Padres dropped to 21-42 on the road worst in the majors and have lost nine straight away from home.
"Again, we just couldn't get much going offensively," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. "They have great pitching overall. That's why they're where they are."
Jordan followed with a line drive to left. Reggie Sanders scooped up the ball and threw home, but he had no chance of getting the speedy Williams. The Braves won for the 13th time in 17 games.
"In those situations, I think the pressure is on the pitcher," Jordan said. "I just try to put the ball in play and not try to do too much. I'm usually pretty successful."
John Rocker (4-4) pitched a scoreless ninth to earn the win.
Braves killer Sterling Hitchcock, who beat Atlanta twice in the NL championship series last year, allowed two runs in six innings before he was lifted for a pinch-hitter in a 2-2 game.
Atlanta evened the score in the fourth with only one hit. Brian Jordan led off by getting hit with a pitch, moved around to third on a single and a walk before coming home on Eddie Perez's sacrifice fly.
San Diego took advantage of shaky defense by the normally reliable Atlanta outfield in the sixth, pushing back ahead 2-1. Right-fielder Jordan appeared to lose Reggie Sanders' two-out fly ball in the sun, allowing it to drop for a double. Phil Nevin followed with a run-scoring double over the heaof center fielder Andruw Jones, who took one step in before charging back in vain.
Once again, the Braves needed only one hit to tie it up. Andruw Jones led off the sixth with a double to the gap in left-center, then used his base-running to make up for his defensive lapse.
On a grounder to third, Nevin failed to look Jones all the way back to second, and the runner moved up on the throw to first. That proved to be critical when Hitchcock threw his NL-leading 14th wild pitch of the season, allowing Jones to score.
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