By CHARLES ODUM, AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — Another strong effort from Anibal Sanchez has the first-place Atlanta Braves facing a sudden surplus of starting pitchers.
Sanchez allowed only four hits in seven scoreless innings, Ender Inciarte homered and scored two runs and the Braves, helped by a strange replay ruling, beat the San Diego Padres 4-2 on Thursday night.
The Braves (40-28) moved 12 games over .500 for the first time since ending the 2013 season on top of the NL East. They haven’t been back to the playoffs since 2013, but now they’re again leading the division.
Sanchez has won two straight starts. With the emergence of rookie Mike Soroka and the expected return of Julio Teheran from the DL this weekend, Braves manager Brian Snitker could soon face difficult decisions in his rotation.
“We’ve got a good problem because we’ve got more starters than we can probably use right now,” Snitker said. “That’s something that not a lot of teams can say. So it’s going to be some tough decisions going forward.”
Sanchez (3-0) did not walk a batter as he earned his first win in six career starts against San Diego. The 34-year-old right-hander lowered his ERA to 1.93 in seven games, including six starts. He signed with Atlanta in spring training following his release from Minnesota.
“He’s been a man on a mission,” catcher Tyler Flowers said.
Sanchez outpitched Tyson Ross (5-4), who allowed only three hits and three runs in six-plus innings.
Ozzie Albies added a run-scoring double for Atlanta. Inciarte, who singled and scored in the third, had two hits.
Atlanta led 3-0 before Eric Hosmer’s double off Dan Winkler in the eighth drove in Jose Pirela and Cory Spangenberg, cutting the lead to one run.
Freddie Freeman doubled and scored on Adam Cimber’s throwing error on Flowers’ grounder in the bottom of the eighth to cap the scoring.
Arodys Vizcaino pitched the ninth for his 13th save in 15 chances.
The Padres were upset a video review affirmed the ruling from home plate umpire Mark Ripperger that Flowers was hit by a pitch from Sanchez in the seventh. The review lasted 2 minutes, 39 seconds.
Flowers said he told Ripperger he didn’t think he was hit by the pitch.
“The more I thought about it sitting there, and then seeing the replay, I know it hit something,” Flowers said. “It might have been me. I don’t know. I wear so many guards and stuff, it might have been one of those.”
TV replays seemed to show the ball didn’t hit Flowers or his bat.
San Diego manager Andy Green said the call changed the game because Flowers scored on Inciarte’s groundout against Robbie Erlin.
“In those moments as a manager I’m not even sure why you have replay,” Green said. “I mean, it’s blatantly obvious it didn’t hit him. There’s no situation where that hit him and it changed the game. … Every single way you look at that one they blew it and that cost us.”
Inciarte pulled a pitch from Ross over the first level of right-field seats and into the open doors of a restaurant in the fifth. It was Inciarte’s fifth homer and his first since May 15.
Sanchez escaped sixth-inning trouble after the Padres had runners on first and third with one out, following a double by A.J. Ellis and an infield single by Pirela. Spangenberg and Hosmer ended the inning with infield popups.
Teheran (right thumb contusion) is on track to come off the DL and start on Sunday after throwing a bullpen session with no problems. Teheran has been out since June 5. … Braves OF Ronald Acuna Jr. (left knee sprain) hit before the game. He is expected to run the bases at a moderate pace on Friday and then give the knee a more strenuous test on Saturday.
The Padres fell to 5-18 in series openers this season, the worst mark in the National League. Despite those poor starts, San Diego has won five straight series.
Ross went four innings without a walk before putting Albies on base with two outs in the fifth. It ended a stretch of 32 innings without a walk for San Diego pitchers, matching the longest streak in franchise history from July 28-31, 1971.
Padres: LHP Clayton Richard will start Friday night’s second game of the series. He is 4-2 with a 3.04 ERA in his last seven starts.
Braves: RHP Brandon McCarthy was announced as Friday night’s starter.
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