Braves visit Padres, look to strengthen playoff chances


The Atlanta Braves have a big three-game home series against the Philadelphia Phillies next week that could decide which team wins the National League East and which one watches the playoffs on television.

But first the Braves are trying to expand their cushion, and they will look to post their sixth victory in the seven games when they visit the San Diego Padres on Saturday night.

Atlanta (81-72) is 1 1/2 games ahead of the Phillies after left-hander Max Fried tossed a three-shutout in Friday’s 4-0 victory.

Fried retired the final 18 San Diego hitters in the masterpiece that represents his second career shutout.

“It’s kind of at that time,” Fried said in a postgame television interview. “We’ve got to play some really good baseball. Obviously, this is a really good team here (in the Padres).”

Shortstop Dansby Swanson helped the offense by hitting a two-run shot to extend his career-best homer count to 27.

Swanson is looking to join the rest of the Atlanta infield with a 30-homer season. Third baseman Austin Riley has 32, first baseman Freddie Freeman has 31 and second baseman Ozzie Albies has 30.

The teams also completed a suspended game from July 21 prior to Friday’s regularly scheduled game.

San Diego shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. hit the tiebreaking homer in the seventh and final inning to give his team a 6-5 victory.

The blast was Tatis’ 41st, tying him for second in franchise history with Phil Nevin (2001). Greg Vaughn holds the team record of 50, hit in 1998.

“You always feel good with Tatis at the plate,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said. “That was just a great at-bat. He was on some pitches, laid off some tough pitches, got it to 3-2 and to be able to drive the ball a touch right of center, impressive, but we’ve seen him do it.”

Tatis and Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper are considered the favorites in the NL MVP race but the Padres are close to elimination from the postseason — despite the 22-year-old’s fabulous season. San Diego (78-76) is seven games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the second wild card with just eight contests remaining, and has dropped 11 of its past 14 games.

Right-hander Huascar Ynoa (4-5, 3.43 ERA) will be on the mound for Atlanta.

The 23-year-old Ynoa is 0-4 over his last eight starts — the last seven coming after he returned from a three-month absence due to punching a dugout bench and breaking his pitching hand after a rough outing against the Milwaukee Brewers on May 16.

Ynoa has never faced the Padres.

Tingler announced after Friday’s game that right-hander Vince Velasquez (3-8, 6.23) will start on Saturday.

Velasquez has lost both starts since joining the Padres and has allowed seven runs (six earned) in five innings for a 10.80 ERA.

Velasquez, 29, was released by the Phillies on Sept. 12 and picked up by San Diego. He went 0-1 with an 8.22 ERA in two starts against the Braves this season and is 1-7 with a 5.21 ERA in 16 career appearances (14 starts).

Freeman is 13-for-34 with two homers and seven RBI against Velasquez while Albies is 6-for-18 with two homers and Swanson is 7-for-22.

Padres catcher Austin Nola is done for the season and will undergo left thumb surgery. He injured it during a home-plate collision with Brandon Belt of the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday.

“It’s been an all-around tough year, from a team standpoint and from an individual standpoint,” Nola told reporters on Friday. “And that’s where it’s been really tough. Because when you’re winning, it takes care of everything.”

–Field Level Media

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