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Toussaint sparks Braves to much-needed win over Padres
Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Touki Toussaint (62) works against the San Diego Padres in the second inning of a baseball game Tuesday, in Atlanta. - photo by Associated Press

ATLANTA — Freddie Freeman homered off Yu Darvish in the sixth inning, Touki Toussaint allowed one run and three hits in his season debut, and the Atlanta Braves beat the San Diego Padres 2-1 on Tuesday night.

Toussaint, who missed the first 3½ months rehabbing a right shoulder strain, retired the first seven batters he faced before walking Victor Caratini in the third. He didn’t allow a hit until Manny Machado doubled with one out in the fourth.

“I think everybody knows that’s been my biggest problem, not throwing strikes," Toussaint said. “Mike Maroth in Triple-A was like, ‘Man, you just need to throw the ball in the zone and let guys get themselves out.’ That’s basically what I did. See how many strikes I could throw and go from there."

The Padres tied it 1-all in the fourth when Jake Cronenworth was hit by a pitch, advanced to third on Machado’s double and scored on Tommy Pham’s sacrifice fly. Wil Myers flied out on a broken-bat flare as Toussaint escaped a bases-loaded jam.

“That fastball had teeth on it," Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s got an innate ability to spin the ball, but it’s just about command and throwing the ball over the plate. He doesn’t have to spot up. With the action on his pitches, he doesn’t have to be perfect. If he gets it over the plate, he can be very effective as he was today."

Freeman made it 2-1 by taking Darvish deep over the wall in left field with an opposite-field shot, his 22nd homer. The All-Star first baseman and reigning NL MVP has five homers in his last seven games.

Toussaint (1-0) walked two and struck out five in 6 2/3 innings. He was relieved by Tyler Matzek, who ended a threat with runners on first and second when pinch-hitter Jurickson Profar flied out.

Toussaint was efficient in throwing 79 pitches, 48 for strikes.

“That’s a thing you have to do to get deep into games and give the bullpen a chance to close it out," he said. “I think that’s the most pressing thing for me, go out and keep my pitch count low and get outs."

Darvish (7-4) was making his first start since July 8 after a stint on the injured list due to left hip inflammation. The All-Star retired nine in a row until Toussaint walked with two outs in the fifth.

Darvish, who struck out Joc Pederson to end the inning, was chased when Stephen Vogt walked to put runners on first and second in the sixth. He allowed four hits and two runs with two walks and three strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

“Physically he was feeling well," San Diego manager Jayce Tingler said. “He gave us what we needed tonight. I thought he threw the ball well. He gave us some depth, some length into the game."

Atlanta’s bullpen finally held a lead — the Braves have lost 10 times when leading after six innings, tied with Arizona for most in the majors. Chris Martin faced four batters in the eighth. Will Smith earned his 19th save in 21 chances after facing four batters in the ninth.

The Braves led 1-0 in the second when Abraham Almonte, who was hitting .169 in his last 22 games, doubled with two outs and scored from second on Guillermo Heredia’s single.

“Really the two blemishes — I think Freddie Freeman hit a good pitch," Tingler said of Darvish. “It was right on the edge, outside corner. He stayed on it. And after getting two outs, I think he just made a two-strike mistake to Almonte.”

Atlanta, which hasn’t been over .500 this year, moved to 46-47. The third-place Braves had lost three of four, but moved 3½ games back in the NL East.

San Diego fell to 55-42. The Padres began the night having dropped three of five and were in third place, 5½ games back in the NL West.