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Dodgers Hamstrung By Braves

Two games in this series have produced two blown saves.  Tonight it was the Dodgers' turn to cough up the lead, as they fell to the Braves, 9-5 in 12 innings at Dodger Stadium.

Forged with a 5-4 lead in the ninth inning, Jonathan Broxton made a few mistakes, and paid dearly for both.  He was wild to Nate McLouth, walking him, and then didn't pay enough attention to him as he stole second with ease.  Still there were two outs when Garret Anderson grounded a ball through the hole between James Loney and Orlando Hudson, allowing the tying run to score.  Broxton has four blown saves this season, plus one more lead blown in San Diego last month.  Of those five blown leads, four have negated potential wins for Chad Billingsley.

For the second straight start, Chad Billingsley's effort was cut short by a bum hamstring.  Billingsley strained his left hamstring while singling in the sixth inning, then came out of the game during warmups in the seventh, exiting with a 5-2 lead.  Billingsley looked like he could have at least pitched into the eighth inning, as he only threw 79 pitches in his six innings of work.

The Dodgers had a three-run lead thanks to a three-run home run by Casey Blake in the fifth inning, one that did not come without controversy, however.  With Rafael Furcal on first and a 3-1 count on Andre Ethier, Jair Jurrjens threw what appeared to be a strike, and it was called a strike by home plate umpire Eric Cooper, followed by a perfect strike from Brian McCann to retire Furcal attempting to steal at second base.  However, Cooper reversed his call, meaning no out at second, and now there were two runners on with nobody out.  Both would score on Blake's home run, which came after Bobby Cox was ejected for rightfully arguing the faux strike call.

When Billingsley left, Hong-Chih Kuo hastily warmed up, and was not sharp when he came in, allowing a two-run home run to Kelly Johnson, and nearly another by Matt Diaz that was caught by Matt Kemp at the wall in center field.  George Sherrill relieved Kuo, and pitched his longest outing of the season -- 1.2 innings, 31 pitches -- as the bridge to Broxton.

James McDonald pitched two perfect innings of relief, and had a beautiful curveball working, but was taken out when the Dodgers pinch hit for him in the bottom of the 11th.  Tony Abreu, making his first MLB appearance since September 23, 2007, grounded out with the bases loaded to end the inning.

Ramon Troncoso started the 12th inning, but allowed a pair of hits.  At this point, Joe Torre opted to go with a pitcher scheduled to start on Sunday, Scott Elbert, who gave up a run-scoring single followed by a line drive home run by Ryan Church to give the Braves' their four-run lead.  If Elbert, who threw 13 pitches tonight, does in fact still start on Sunday, he would be the first Dodger pitcher to start with one day of rest since Kevin Brown in 2001.  In all, there have been 66 LA Dodgers to start a game with one or less day of rest.

If I had to guess, I would say Hong-Chih Kuo, who has thrown on back-to-back nights, and George Sherrill, who had his longest outing of the year, will be unavailable for Saturday's game.  It would also be surprising to see James McDonald as well after his two-inning stint tonight.  However, with Ronald Belisario close to being activated, one has to wonder if McDonald won't be the one optioned to Albuquerque to make room for Belisario. 

But enough worrying about the bullpen.  Clayton Kershaw is pitching Saturday, in a game I predict he will last much longer than four innings, as he did in his last start.  Kenshin Kawakami pitches for Atlanta.

WP -Peter Moylan (4-2):  1 IP, 1 hit, 2 walks

LP - Ramon Troncoso (4-1):  0.1 IP, 2 hits, 2 runs

Box Score