Three consecutive two-out hits in the 11th inning, capped off by a pinch single by Juan Francisco, gave the Braves a 4-3 walk-off win over the Dodgers Friday night in the opener of a weekend series at Turner Field.
Because the game was on the road and tied, closer Kenley Jansen was kept under wraps by virtue of an archaic baseball tradition that simply hasn't died. Jansen watched Randy Choate, Brandon League, and Jamey Wright combine to allow four hits and a walk while recording just five outs in extra innings.
But the game was likely lost in the eighth inning.
Chris Capuano took a two-run lead into the eighth inning, having allowed just one run and three hits to that point. Chipper Jones, who homered twice on Thursday on his bobblehead night, hit a solo shot to center in the second for Atlanta.
Paul Janish and Reed Johnson opened the eighth with singles to right field, then Capuano was removed after they were sacrificed to second and third.
Ronald Belisario got Martin Prado to ground out, which scored a run, which brought up Jason Heyward with the tying run on third base and two outs. To that point, Heyward had just six hits in 63 career at-bats against the Dodgers in his career. The left-handed hitter has much better numbers against righties (.308/.390/.583 this year, .279/.381/.490 career) than lefties (.228/.289/.363 this year, .228/.312/.364 career). Manager Don Mattingly elected to stay with Belisario rather than call on the southpaw Choate, who pitched to one batter Thursday but had faced just three batters in three games in the previous nine days.
Heyward rewarded that decision with a single to left center field to tie the game.
The good news is that Choate wasn't hurt, as he was used in the 10th, and retired one of the two batters he faced. The one left-hander he did face, Michael Bourn, got a hit. Naturally.
Bourn stole second base and advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher Matt Treanor, but Jones flied out to end the rally.
Earlier in the game, down 1-0, Andre Ethier walked with two outs in the fourth, then was sent home on a double to left by Hanley Ramirez, only to be thrown out rather easily at the plate, preserving what at the time was a 1-0 Braves lead. Dodgers third base /oach Tim Wallach must have thought his "Number 16 will be your lucky number" fortune cookie was a sign to send Ethier home on the play.
But there was no luck involved in the sixth inning, only a pitch that was crushed by Ethier well into the seats in right field. The two-run shot turned the game in the Dodgers' favor, and snapped quite a dry spell. Ethier last homered on July 14, and his homerless span of 129 plate appearances and 30 games was the second longest of his career.
The Dodgers added a much needed insurance run in the seventh, thanks to a pair of doubles to left by Luis Cruz and Shane Victorino that gave the Dodgers a 3-1 lead. Cruz had his second three-hit game of the week, and added two walks to boot.
Capuano ended up with eight strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings, allowing three runs, his 17th quality start of the year.
Aaron Harang gets the call for the Dodgers in the second game of the series, facing a healthy Ben Sheets for Atlanta.
Home Runs: Andre Ethier (12); Chipper Jones (13)
WP - Jonny Venters (5-3): 1 IP, 2 hits
LP - Brandon League (0-6): 1 1/3 IP, 2 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, 1 strikeout