ATLANTA — Kenshin Kawakami escaped early trouble and the Braves were cruising with a three-run lead over the light-hitting San Diego Padres.
Then, in one inning, it all fell apart for Atlanta.
San Diego stunned the Braves with a six-run sixth inning, Kevin Kouzmanoff added a two-run homer and the Padres pulled away to a 12-5 victory Wednesday night that dealt another blow to Atlanta’s hopes of getting back to the playoffs for the first time since 2005.
"We’re playing every game like we’re desperate to win," said Chipper Jones, whose prolonged slump isn’t helping the Braves’ cause. "Sometimes when you play like that, you don’t play relaxed and things can snowball on you."
The last-place Padres have won two sparsely attended games at Turner Field. Today, they’ll go for their first series sweep since taking three straight from the Chicago Cubs on May 22-24.
"Maybe we let up a little bit, lost a little bit of focus," said Braves reliever Eric O’Flaherty, who was roughed up in the sixth along with Kawakami.
Coming off a 12-inning win in the series opener, the Padres failed to score in the top of the first after loading the bases with no outs, then fell behind when Brian McCann hit a three-run homer off Tim Stauffer (2-6) in the bottom half of the inning.
"What I liked about this game is that as crushing as that can be in the first inning, our guys kept their chins up," San Diego manager Bud Black said. "There was good energy in the dugout."
Still, a three-run lead looked pretty safe against the Padres, the lowest-scoring team in the NL. After escaping the first-inning jam and two more runners in the second, Kawakami (6-10) was perfect over the next three innings.
But San Diego sent 11 batters to the plate in sixth, scoring more runs that inning than their last three games combined.
"We put good swings on it and we were just trying to stick with it, stick with it," Padres second baseman David Eckstein said.
"We were able to find some holes finally."
Adrian Gonzalez started it with a double, Chase Headley followed with a single and Will Venable doubled in a run.
Kouzmanoff’s groundout produced another run, and Nick Hundley finished off Kawakami with another RBI double, tying the game at 3.
"I should have approached the batters differently," Kawakami said through a translator.
O’Flaherty took over, but couldn’t stop the onslaught.
Tony Gwynn Jr. singled and pinch-hitter Luis Rodriguez drove in another run with a hit. When the throw home got away from McCann, rolling about 10 feet away, Gwynn alertly raced to the plate to make it 5-3.
Gonzalez finished off the big inning with an RBI single before Peter Moylan, the third Atlanta pitcher, finally got the third out.
Ryan Church’s run-scoring single in the bottom half pulled the Braves to 6-4, but Kouzmanoff went deep off Manny Acosta in the seventh for his 16th homer, and a three-run ninth really blew it open.
The Braves dropped eight games behind first-place Philadelphia in the NL East. Atlanta remained 5« games behind Colorado in the wild card.
"It’s very tough," O’Flaherty said. "We all understand how important every game is. This was a big blow to us. We’ve got to come back tomorrow and get ourselves back in it."
NOTES: The Padres had 18 hits, equaled their season high for runs in an inning and had their second-highest scoring game of the season, eclipsed only by a 13-6 win over Milwaukee on Aug. 11. ... Braves SS Yunel Escobar extended his hitting streak to a season-high 10 games with a bloop single in the sixth. ... The announced attendance was 15,619, slightly higher than Tuesday’s crowd of 15,389. The smallest turnout of the season was 15,364 against Colorado on April 18. ... It began raining in the bottom half of the eighth, sending most of the fans who remained scurrying for the exits. Only a few hundred people were still around for the finish, and a fierce thunderstorm struck shortly after the game ended.