ATLANTA — Unlike last year, Chris Young solved the Atlanta Braves.
Young struck out eight in six innings, and the San Diego Padres beat the Braves 4-2 Monday for their fifth win in six games.
Last year, Young went 0-1 against the Braves in two starts — both at San Diego — giving up 13 runs and 15 hits in six innings, a 19.50 ERA. Young (4-2) allowed two runs and two hits in six innings this time, walking two.
He struck out seven in the first four innings, allowing only one hit. Young, unbeaten in 25 straight road starts before losing at Los Angeles on April 15, is 2-2 away from home this season. He has allowed five hits in his last two starts.
Scott Linebrink, Heath Bell and Trevor Hoffman completed the three-hitter, with Hoffman getting his ninth save in 11 chances to finish off San Diego’s third straight victory.
Chuck James (3-3) gave up two runs, three hits and four walks in 3 2-3 innings, the first time in seven starts this season he has not lasted five innings.
Braves reliever Chad Paronto hit Young on his left leg with a pitch in the sixth, and plate umpire Jim Joyce warned both benches.
Adrian Gonzalez homered in the second and Kevin Kouzmanoff made it 2-0 with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the fourth. After James reloaded the bases with a walk to Young, Oscar Villarreal relieved and got Marcus Giles to ground into a forceout.
San Diego made it 3-0 in the fifth when Brian Giles scored from second when shortstop Chris Woodward threw wildly to first attempting to complete a double play on Josh Bard’s grounder.
Atlanta closed within a run in the bottom half after a walk, hit batter and balk, getting Scott Thorman’s RBI grounder and Woodward’s run-scoring triple.
Paronto forced in a run in the sixth with a bases-loaded walk to Jose Cruz Jr.
Salty open to
playing other positions
Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s first two games as a starter were so impressive as to cause many to wonder how the Atlanta Braves will find him playing time between now and 2013.
The Braves already are committed to another young catcher.
Brian McCann, only 23, signed a six-year deal this spring after hitting .333 with 24 homers and 93 RBIs in his 2006 All-Star season.
Manager Bobby Cox marvels at McCann’s ability to drill line drives to all fields, and Atlanta’s pitchers applaud McCann’s work as a receiver.
McCann is a tough act to top, but Saltalamacchia, 22, is showing why he is regarded as the team’s top prospect.
Saltalamacchia threw out three baserunners in his first two starts and had two hits while driving in the go-ahead run in Sunday’s 6-4 win over Los Angeles. As a bonus, Saltalamacchia is a switch-hitter.
The stocky McCann looks like a catcher. Saltalamacchia looks more like a player who might be able to handle another position, though his strong arm makes him especially valuable behind the plate.
Now comes the new question of how to make room for Saltalamacchia.
‘Salty is going to be a player,’’ said Braves third baseman Chipper Jones. ‘‘I don’t know where he’s going to play, but he’s going to be a player. ... He’s ready now. I think he’s been ready, to be honest with you.’’
Saltalamacchia also has earned early praise from pitchers.
‘‘He’s awesome,’’ said reliever Mike Gonzalez. ‘‘I like that guy very much. He’s a good target. You’d think because he’s young he wouldn’t call that good of a game. He calls a great game and obviously you’ve seen he’s got a great arm.’’
McCann, hitting .311 with two homers and 16 RBIs, was back in the starting lineup Monday night.
‘‘Brian is a great catcher. I like him a lot,’’ Saltalamacchia said. ‘‘I think I’m a pretty good catcher. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen.’’
Saltalamacchia says he played third base and first base in high school. And, just for fun — not on the instructions of Braves management — Saltalamacchia often takes ground balls at first base during batting practice.
But if the Braves ask him to take a more serious look at another position, Saltalamacchia says he’s ready.
‘‘If they want me to play anywhere, I’ll play as long as it’s up here in the big leagues,’’ he said.
Saltalamacchia was called up from Double-A Mississippi on Wednesday when backup catcher Brayan Pena was placed on the disabled list with a concussion. If Pena is ready to play at the end of his 15 days on the disabled list, Saltalamacchia could be back in the minor leagues by the middle of the month.
‘‘I just want to learn as much as I can while I’m here,’’ he said.
‘‘You can’t be upset about it, that’s for sure, because I got the opportunity. Most people don’t get this opportunity.’’
Meanwhile, the speculation about Saltalamacchia’s future likely will continue. Braves general manager John Schuerholz may start receiving trade offers for one of the catchers.
Saltalamacchia says he won’t tune in to the inevitable rumors.
‘‘You can’t control it,’’ he said. ‘‘We have no control over that whatsoever, so why think about it?’’
Shortstop Edgar Renteria was held out of the starting lineup with flu symptoms Monday night. Chris Woodward was the fill-in starter at shortstop, and left fielder Willie Harris moved into Renteria’s usual No. 2 slot in the batting order.
Renteria has a 15-game hitting streak. He is hitting .333 with four homers and 19 RBIs.
The Braves’ decision to not re-sign second baseman Marcus Giles last winter has worked well for Atlanta and San Diego.
Giles signed with the Padres, giving him the chance to play with his brother, Brian. Marcus Giles is hitting .328 with 20 runs and a .380 on-base percentage as the Padres’ new leadoff hitter.
Meanwhile, Atlanta’s new second baseman and leadoff hitter, Kelly Johnson, is hitting .314 and ranks among the NL leaders with 27 runs, 28 walks and a .459 on-base percentage. Johnson, a former outfielder, also has played well in the field following an offseason’s work with infield coach Glenn Hubbard — the same man who helped Giles with his defense.
‘‘I think if Hubby can turn me into an average second baseman, compared to where I was in the minors, he could probably turn you guys into second basemen,’’ Giles told reporters Monday.
‘‘That’s about the biggest thing I do miss over here is Hubby, to remind me of tips on defense.’’
Giles and former Braves pitcher Greg Maddux visited with Braves manager Bobby Cox during batting practice. Maddux will start for the Padres Wednesday night against Atlanta’s John Smoltz.