The Atlanta Braves have struggled to score and the bullpen hasn't been sharp during their current losing streak.
They made a move to improve both areas before the trade deadline.After acquiring Emilio Bonifacio and James Russell, the Braves will try to avoid their fourth straight loss Friday night when they visit the San Diego Padres.Atlanta (58-51) has totaled nine runs and hit .185 with runners in scoring position over its last four games, including three consecutive defeats to the Los Angeles Dodgers to open this eight-game trip.Though their nine hits off Clayton Kershaw on Thursday were the most allowed this season by MLB's ERA leader, the Braves lost 2-1. Justin Upton had a ninth-inning RBI single and is hitting .362 in his last 16 contests.The Braves stayed 1 1/2 games behind NL East-leading Washington and fell into a three-way tie for the second wild-card spot, but may have boosted their playoff hopes earlier in the day by obtaining Bonifacio and Russell from the Chicago Cubs for catching prospect Victor Caratini.Bonifacio provides a switch-hitting option who can play several different positions. He's hitting .279 in 69 games and owns a .400 average in his last eight.Atlanta relievers gave up six runs and 11 hits over four innings in Los Angeles, and the Braves sought to add a left-handed reliever Thursday. Russell fits that bill after going 0-2 with one save and a 3.51 ERA in 44 games for Chicago."These are two pieces that we really like," general manager Frank Wren said. "In Bonifacio, we got a really versatile bench player who can do a lot of things well. In Russell's case, it's another veteran bullpen arm."Both players are expected to join the Braves when they try to beat San Diego's Eric Stults for the second time in two weeks.Stults (3-13, 5.22 ERA), who leads the NL in losses, allowed six runs over six innings in Sunday's 8-3 loss at Atlanta. The left-hander had been 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA in his previous three starts against the Braves.Mike Minor (4-6, 5.23) opposed Stults last week and beat the Padres (48-60), allowing three runs with six strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings. The left-hander had given up 12 runs and 21 hits in nine innings over his previous two starts.Yangervis Solarte went 2 for 4 with a home run off Minor, and he's batting .324 with two homers and eight RBIs in nine games since joining San Diego in a trade from the New York Yankees.The Padres rank last in the majors with a .220 average after finishing with three hits in Thursday's 6-2 home loss to St. Louis, missing a chance to sweep that three-game set.Jedd Gyorko could be turning things around after homering for the second straight game. He's hitting .183 on the season but went 6 for 11 with six RBIs in the Cardinals series."My swings feel good," Gyorko said. "Everything feels right."The Padres made a move toward the future Thursday by sending outfielder Chris Denorfia to Seattle for two minor leaguers.Jason Heyward has been out during the Braves' three-game skid due to a sore back but could return during this three-game set.San Diego has won four straight versus Atlanta at Petco Park.