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Padres Take Playoff Preview


San Diego's bullpen couldn't have set up any better than on Tuesday night, when the opponent happened to be the Atlanta Braves.

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  • only August, but the Padres would love to have this situation again in October.

    With runners on first and second and none out and the Padres leading by two, Randy Myers and Dan Miceli pitched a perfect eighth in relief of Joey Hamilton.

    With the crowd of 31,430 on its feet, Trevor Hoffman then blew through the ninth to save San Diego's 3-1 win in the opener of a three-game series between the NL's top two teams.

    "That was a situation that we kind of got burned on in Atlanta the first time we went through," said Hoffman, who struck out two and retired the Braves on just eight pitches for his major league-leading 39th save.

    "Myers has been a tremendous addition. I think more so than him just getting those people out, it was just his poise and to be able to handle that situation. To not let anybody score, that's probably the play of the game, what Randy and Dan did in the eighth inning," he said.

    The Padres are 2-3 against the Braves this year, with four games to go in the season series. The Braves lead the Padres by two games in the race for home-field advantage should they meet in the NL championship series.

    Steve Finley homered for the Padres, who snapped Atlanta's four-game winning streak and five-game road winning streak. The Braves pinch-hit Tony Graffanino for lefty Keith Lockhart, but Myers struck him out. Chipper Jones was forced to bat right-handed, where he's hit only two of his 28 homers, and he lined to left. In a righty-versus-righty matchup, Miceli got Andres Galarraga to fly out.

    Myers was obtained Thursday in a waiver deal with Toronto to give the Padres a reliable lefty reliever and block the Braves from getting him.

    "The thing that's tough about those guys, especially since they've acquired Myers, is that if you get down by one or two runs going into the seventh or eighth inning, the game is over ... pretty much," Neagle said. "You've got the best closer in baseball in Hoffman, and now, my gosh, adding Myers."

    Hamilton, who lives in Atlanta in the off-season, threw seven strong innings to win his fifth straight decision. He is 2-7 lifetime against the Braves, including 1-1 this year. He got 14 groundball outs in seven-plus innings, allowed one run and six hits.

    Hamilton, who had good command of his fastball, said the buildup toward this series has been blown out of proportion locally.

    But, he said: "Anytime a team like Atlanta comes in, you pump yourself up a little bit and get a little more intense. It really shouldn't be that way, but it's just the way it is."

    Neagle (11-10) lost for the first time in nine lifetime appearances in San Diego, including three starts. He allowed three runs, two earned, and six hits in seven innings.

    Finley's 10th homer came on a 1-2 pitch from Neagle with one out in the first, giving San Diego a 1-0 lead. The Braves tied it when Jones singled in Guillen, who hit a one-out double. It was the seventh straight time that Jones reached base.

    The Padres went up 2-1 in the fourth when the Braves committed two errors on the same play.

    With Ken Caminiti on first, Greg Vaughn hit a grounder that glanced off Jones' glove at third base and rolled into left field. Vaughn hustled into second, drawing a throw from Ryan Klesko that sailed over second baseman Lockhart's head, got by first baseman Galarraga and rolled into foul territory. Caminiti scored and Vaughn took third.

    The Padres made it 3-1 in the fifth when Carlos Hernandez hit a leadoff double and scored on Quilvio Veras' two-out double.

    Notes

  • Tony Gwynn was back after missing four starts with a strained left Achilles' tendon, but didn't hit the ball out of the infield in three at-bats.
  • The Braves have won every season series at San Diego since 1989.
  • The Braves and Padres meet in a two-game series at Atlanta Aug. 20-21.
  • Andy Ashby, the only Padres pitcher who won during a four-game series at Atlanta in May, goes against Greg Maddux in a matchup of 15-game winners Wednesday night.
  • Padres owner John Mooes and president Larry Lucchino were late for the team photo shoot Tuesday afternoon, which means they'll probably be air-brushed in.
  • The Braves purchased the contract of LHP Norm Charlton to take the place of RHP Mark Wohlers, who was optioned to Triple-A Richmond and had another shaky outing Tuesday night.
  • The Braves have the NL's best road record (37-20) and the Padres the NL's best home record (43-13).
  • Galarraga extended his hitting streak to 13 games.
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