SAN DIEGO (AP) — Will Smith struck out the side around three walks in the ninth inning to finish the Atlanta Braves’ 4-3 win over the San Diego Padres on Sunday that opened a 2 1/2-game lead over Philadelphia heading into their NL East showdown.
Pinch-hitter Orlando Arcia hit a go-ahead double in the sixth off Pierce Johnson (3-4). Joc Pederson homered and scored twice for Atlanta, which has led the division since Aug. 15. The Braves won despite walking seven Padres.
Atlanta has won seven of nine and hosts the Phillies in a three-game series starting Tuesday. Philadelphia ends with three games at Miami, and the Braves close at home with three games against the Mets, with a makeup game at Colorado possible on Oct. 4 if it’s needed to decide the NL East.
“This is what you play for,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do in the next week.”
Smith walked Jake Cronenworth and Manny Machado, then threw a called third strike past pinch-hitter Fernando Tatis Jr. on a slider on the low, inside corner.
“Just trying to get him out,” Smith said.
Smith walked Tommy Pham on four pitches, loading the bases, and pitching coach Rick Kranitz went to the mound.
Trent Grisham took a called third strike on a borderline fastball on the high, inside corner that plate umpire Greg Gibson called the pitcher’s way.
Smith fell behind Ha-Seong Kim 2-0 before evening the count. Kim fouled off a slider, then got him to swing under a fastball for his 35th save in 41 chances. Catcher Vic Caratini caught a foul tip for the final out.
“Will never gives in. He has a big stomach,” Snitker said.
San Diego, eliminated from postseason contention a day earlier, lost for the 14th time in 17 games and at 78-78 dropped to .500 for the first time since a 10-10 start.
“There was not much you could do with those pitches to Tatis and Grisham,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said.
A.J. Minter (3-7) got the win with one-third of an inning. Atlanta finished the road portion of its schedule at 46-35.
Joe Musgrove, whose April 9 no-hitter at Texas was a San Diego season highlight, allowed three runs and nine hits in five innings with nine strikeouts.
“It’s everything for me — being able to pitch in my hometown for a team I have wanted to play for my whole life,” Musgrove said.
Pederson homered in the second, and the Braves too a 3-0 lead in the fourth on doubles by Austin Riley and Travis d’Arnaud and a bloop single to center by pinch- hitter Ehire Adrianza that Grisham misplayed by originally going back.
Cronenworth hit a two-run triple in the fifth off Jacob Webb and scored on Machado’s single but it wouldn’t be enough for the Padres.
“This team has a bunch of heart and I am excited to be a part of it,” d’Arnaud said.
Braves: Reinstated RHP Touki Toussaint from the bereavement list and optioned him to Triple-A Gwinnett.
Braves: RHP Charlie Morton (13-6) starts Tuesday against RHP Zack Wheeler (14-9).
Padres: RHP Yu Darvish (8-10) starts Tuesday at the Los Angeles Dodgers and RHP Walker Buehler (14-4).
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports