ATLANTA -- Just a month ago, Kent Mercker's season was in jeopardy because of a pulled muscle in his rib cage. Mark Wohlers was catching planes at 4:30 a.m. at Class AAA Richmond. And Alejandro Pena was stuck in the mess that once was the New York Mets.
Last night, the three combined to give Atlanta what it never had seen Braves pitching do at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium -- a no-hitter.
With Mercker, a fifth starter out of desperation, pitching six overpowering innings, Wohlers adding two perfect ones and Pena working a quick ninth, the Braves manufactured the second no-hitter in club history with a 1-0 victory over the San Diego Padres before 20,477 fans. Phil Niekro pitched the only other no-hitter in Atlanta history, winning, 9-0, in San Diego on Aug. 5, 1973.
The win kept the Braves in first place by a half-game over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West. It also was the sixth straight win for the Braves, their longest winning streak of the year.
"There was some hard throwing out there tonight," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "I mean really hard. I wanted the no-hitter, but it was really, really secondary. We had a one-run lead. I wanted the win first."
And, after just a bit of controversy, he got both. There was no doubt on any ball through eight innings. Mercker walked two in the first and the third. Wohlers gave up a long fly out to Fred McGriff in the seventh that backed Ron Gant into the center-field wall.
But, in the ninth, with two outs, some uncertainty arose. Darrin Jackson hit a slow roller toward third that Terry Pendleton charged. The ball took a big hop, and Pendleton never fielded it, though he did stab his glove at it. The immediate call was an error.
Pena got the next batter, Tony Gwynn, to fly out to left.
"The ball got in the lights on the hop," said Pendleton, who gave the Braves their only run with a homer, his 20th, in the fifth. "I had to force the hand of the scorer.
"I had no idea at all where the ball was. I had to stab at it. I'm definitely satisfied with the call. I'll take that error any day. In my mind, it was plain what the call was."
Official scorer Mark Frederickson said there was no debate. He did not wait to see a replay before making his call.
"Pendleton could have had the ball," Frederickson told The Associated Press. "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."
Said San Diego manager Greg Riddoch: "That ball should have been caught. I'd want an E-5 for my pitcher, too. The call doesn't bother me at all."
Nothing, it seemed, bothered the Braves pitchers. Mercker, making his second start of the season, was dominant. He struck out six, including the side in the second inning. He extended his scoreless streak to 12 innings, during which he's allowed just six hits.
Sept. 11, 1991 -- Kent Mercker (6 innings), Mark Wohlers (2) and Alejandro Pena (1), Atlanta vs. San Diego, 1-0.
July 13, 1991 -- Bob Milacki (6), Mike Flanagan (1), Mark Williamson (1), Gregg Olson (1), Baltimore vs. Oakland, 2-0.
April 11, 1990 -- Mark Langston (7), Mike Witt (2), California vs. Seattle, 1-0.
April 28, 1976 -- John Odom (5), Francisco Barrios (4), Chicago (AL) vs. Oakland, 2-1.
Sept. 28, 1975 -- Vida Blue (5), Glenn Abbott (1), Paul Lindblad (1), Rollie Fingers (2), Oakland vs. California, 5-0.
April 30, 1967 -- Steve Barber (8 2/3 ), Stu Miller ( 1/3 ), Baltimore vs. Detroit, 1-2.
May 1--Nolan Ryan, Texas vs. Toronto, 3-0.
May 23--Tommy Greene, Philadelphia vs. Montreal, 2-0.
July 13--Bob Milacki (6 innings), Mike Flanagan (1 inning), Mark Williamson (1 inning) and Gregg Olson (1 inning), Baltimore vs. Oakland, 2-0.
July 28--y-Dennis Martinez, Montreal vs. Los Angeles, 2-0.
Aug. 11--Wilson Alvarez, Chicago vs. Baltimore, 7-0.
Aug. 26--Bret Saberhagen, Kansas City vs. Chicago, 7-0.
Sept. 11--Kent Mercker (6 innings), Mark Wohlers (2) and Alejandro Pena (1), Atlanta vs. San Diego, 1-0.