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Nortons pinch-hit single lifts Braves to win
Atlanta Braves’ Greg Norton follows through on an RBI-single Wednesday in the seventh inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres, in Atlanta. Atlanta won 5-2. - photo by The Associated Press

ATLANTA — Greg Norton was brought to Atlanta to provide some punch in a pinch.

On Wednesday night, it was job well done for the Braves’ new addition.
Norton broke a seventh-inning tie with a bases-loaded, pinch-hit single, and Atlanta beat the San Diego Padres 5-2 for its fifth straight win.

“It was big,” Norton said. “I know that’s my role, to try to help the team coming off the bench. To actually do it, it was a big moment for me.”

With the game tied 2-2, Padres starter Randy Wolf was lifted after loading the bases in the seventh on Brian McCann’s double, Matt Diaz’s single and Mark Kotsay’s walk.

As a frustrated Wolf (2-2) threw his glove into the Padres’ dugout, manager Bud Black brought in Joe Thatcher. Norton, obtained by the Braves from Seattle on Monday, drove in McCann with a single up the middle in his second at-bat with the Braves.

“We had a lot of big hits tonight, but certainly Norton’s was the biggest,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “This has really added a new dimension, I think, to the bench.”

Norton was acquired for a player to be named later or cash.

Kelly Johnson’s fly ball to center drove in Diaz, and Yunel Escobar added a run-scoring single to left for a 5-2 lead. Wolf gave up eight hits and five runs with four walks and one strikeout.

“I never felt like I was in control of the game,” Wolf said. “I never had my good command. I just battled through.”

Tim Hudson (5-2) gave up six hits and two runs in seven innings. He walked three and struck out three. Manny Acosta recorded the final two outs for his third save.

The Braves (17-15) are two games over .500 for the first time this season. With five straight wins — all at home — Atlanta improved to 13-4 at Turner Field.

“The Braves are swinging the bats,” Black said. “They hit some balls leading off the seventh, and we couldn’t get through it.”

Chipper Jones was 2-for-4 to improve the majors’ best batting average to .429. He has 16 multi-hit games and has hits in 27 of 30 games.

“He’s just hard to stop right now,” Cox said. “I think how you have to explain Chipper Jones right now is just hope your defense is where the ball is hit. He’s that good. He’s cracking the ball as good as I’ve ever seen. You’re talking about a guy who was second in the league in hitting last year, so it’s not a fluke.”

The Padres took a 1-0 lead in the second on a balk call on Hudson that led to Cox’s ejection by third-base umpire Wally Bell. It was Cox’s 137th career ejection, extending his major league record, and his second this season.

Cox and Hudson argued that Hudson stepped toward home plate on a fake pickoff throw to third with San Diego’s Kevin Kouzmanoff on third base. Both Hudson and Cox pointed to the spot on the mound where they said Hudson’s foot landed.

Kouzmanoff, who opened the inning with a double to left and moved to third on Paul McAnulty’s single, scored on the balk.

Hudson, still upset after Cox left the field, settled down after Jones visited the mound.

“My emotions, I overdid it out there a little bit,” Hudson said. “But you never know if that’s going to cost you the ball game or not at that time.

“(Jones) just told me he needed me to settle down. We needed me to pitch deep in the game. I was probably definitely pushing it. If I were the umpire, I would have tossed me. But they gave me the benefit of the doubt right there and I was able to settle in.”

Wolf walked Mark Teixeira and Jeff Francoeur to open the bottom of the second. A single by McCann, who had three hits, loaded the bases with no outs.

Teixeira scored when Diaz grounded into a double play. Francoeur scored on Mark Kotsay’s single to left for a 2-1 lead.

The Padres tied the game in the sixth. Tadahito Iguchi led off with a single, stole second, moved to third on an infield hit by Adrian Gonzalez and scored on Kouzmanoff’s double-play grounder.

Notes: Cox said after the game the Braves plan to activate infielder Omar Infante on Thursday. Infante opened the season on the disabled list with a fractured right hand. The Braves may make a roster move with catcher Brayan Pena, who has a back sprain, to clear a spot for Infante. ... The Padres fell to 6-13 in road games. ... The Braves hit into four double plays in the first six innings, including two by Francoeur. ... The Braves also won five straight from April 17-21.

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