By CHARLES ODUM
ATLANTA (AP) — Pulling Mike Soroka after six strong innings was a challenging call for Braves manager Brian Snitker.
“Maybe the toughest decision I’ve had all year,” Snitker said, considering how well Soroka was pitching and how much Atlanta’s bullpen has struggled.
Some new names in the bullpen saved Snitker — and the game.
Ozzie Albies homered and drove in two runs, Soroka gave up one run in six innings and the Braves beat the San Diego Padres 3-1 on Monday night.
Soroka (2-1) allowed four hits, struck out a career-high eight and walked one. The 21-year-old right-hander lowered his ERA to 1.62.
Soroka threw only 81 pitches before he was lifted for pinch-hitter Charlie Culberson with the bases loaded in the sixth. Culberson lined out to left.
Soroka threw 109 pitches in his last start, a 3-1 win at Cincinnati. But after shoulder problems shortened his 2018 season, Snitker is watching him closely this year.
“He told me that’s not going to happen every time,” Soroka said of the early exit. “I completely understand that. I’ll never argue with him.”
Right-hander Josh Tomlin, who was signed on March 21 after opening spring training with Milwaukee, rewarded Snitker by throwing two scoreless innings. Tomlin stranded runners on first and second in the eighth when he induced a popup to first by Manny Machado.
Left-hander Jerry Blevins, obtained from Oakland on Sunday for $1, struck out Eric Hosmer on three pitches to open the ninth. Rookie right-hander Jacob Webb recorded the final two outs for his first save, one day after his first win. Webb struck out pinch-hitter Wil Myers to end the game.
Greg Garcia, making his first start of the season at shortstop with rookie Fernando Tatis Jr. out with a sore hamstring, singled off Soroka to open the game and eventually scored on Machado’s double-play grounder.
Albies extended Atlanta’s lead to 3-1 in the fifth with his sixth homer, which hit the facing of the second deck in left field.
The Padres committed three errors for the second straight game. Two errors came on one third-inning play, which allowed Atlanta’s first run.
First baseman Hosmer fielded Soroka’s bunt near the mound and threw to second. Garcia couldn’t handle the throw, which also skipped past Manuel Margo in center field. Johan Camargo scored from first and Soroka ran to third as Hosmer and Margot were charged with throwing and fielding errors, respectively.
Soroka scored on Albies’ single to right field for a 2-1 lead. Both runs in the inning off Nick Margevicius were unearned, but he wasn’t complaining about the lack of defensive support.
“There are so many plays that shouldn’t be made that they make,” Margevicius said. “That’s why when a play like that happened to them, that’s when you’ve got to step up for them and make some pitches.”
Padres: Tatis did not start after hurting his hamstring on Sunday. He was hurt when he did an awkward-looking split while trying to stretch for a throw at second base at Washington. Manager Andy Green said it’s too soon to know if Tatis can avoid the injured list. A decision could come Tuesday.
Braves: CF Ender Inciarte left the game with tightness in his right hamstring following a third-inning single. Snitker said the injury is not believed to be serious. … RHP Chad Sobotka was placed on the 10-day injured list with a left abdomen strain. LHP Grant Dayton was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett.
Margevicius (2-3) allowed three runs, one earned, on four hits and three walks in 5 2/3 innings. “Nick was great today,” Green said. “Really the only blood that was drawn on him was the solo homer.”
ONE FOR ONE
Webb called on his minor league experience, including 18 saves in the minors in 2018, for his first major league save opportunity. “It was a little different coming in that situation,” Webb said. “I’m used to it from the lower levels. It felt pretty good.”
SPRING IN THE BAT
Albies is enjoying an early power surge for the second straight season. He hit nine homers in March and April last season before finishing with 24.
Padres: Rookie RHP Chris Paddack’s .112 opponent batting average ranks first among pitchers who have logged at least 25 innings. Paddack is 1-1, and his 1.67 ERA ranks third entering Tuesday night’s start against the Braves.
Braves: RHP Julio Teheran (2-3, 5.40 ERA) is 5-3 with a 3.73 ERA in 10 career starts against the Padres. He was 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA in two starts against San Diego in 2018.