ATLANTA — Kent Mercker, Atlanta's stopgap starter, combined with two relievers on a no-hitter--preserved by a controversial scorer's decision--and the surprising Braves maintained their National League West lead with a 1-0 victory Wednesday night over the San Diego Padres.
Mercker, thrust into the rotation last week after Armando Reynoso did not work out as a fifth starter, overpowered the Padres for six innings in his third major league start.
Rookie Mark Wohlers shut down San Diego for two innings and Alejandro Pena pitched the ninth to finish off the sixth combined no-hitter in history, and the first ever in the NL.
With two outs in the ninth inning, Darrin Jackson hit a chopper to the left side of the infield. Third baseman Terry Pendleton cut in front of shortstop Rafael Belliard but backed away at the last second. The ball glanced off Belliard, and Jackson was safe.
Official scorer Mark Frederickson immediately ruled it an error on Pendleton, even though he never touched the ball.
"Pendleton could have had the ball," Frederickson said. "He let it go by. Pendleton committed on the ball, and if he would have gone ahead and made the play, he would have thrown him out."
Frederickson, 32, is a medical business manager and has been a scorer for six years.
After Jackson reached safely, Pena retired Tony Gwynn, the NL's leading hitter, on a routine fly to left field to end it.
The Padres' only other runners came on two walks by Mercker. San Diego did not come close to a hit, with its best effort being Fred McGriff's fly ball to the warning track in center field off Wohlers in the seventh inning.
Pendleton hit his 20th home run in the fifth inning off Greg Harris, enough for the Braves to win their sixth game in a row. They began the day with a half a game lead over the Dodgers. Atlanta also snapped the Padres' seven-game winning streak, their longest since 1987.
The three Atlanta pitchers teamed on the seventh no-hitter this season and the second combined effort. Nolan Ryan, Tommy Greene, four Baltimore pitchers, Dennis Martinez, Wilson Alvarez and Bret Saberhagen had done it in 1991.
Saberhagen's no-hitter on Aug. 26 against Chicago also was preserved with a controversial call by an official scorer.
This year's no-hitters matched the seven pitched last season.