This wasn’t the kind of series the Atlanta Braves, nor their fans for that reason, wanted to see out of the team to begin its10-game West Coast swing starting in Los Angeles Monday.
After taking 2-of-3 from the slumping New York Mets, the Braves looked west, hoping to string together a few wins and get the offense going heading into the weekend series with the San Francisco Giants.
The Braves dropped game 1, 4-2, before game 2’s 10-1 win. Game 3 saw a turn of the tables, as the Dodgers won, 6-1 before needing extra innings and a Matt Kemp walk-off two-run home run to take game 4, and the series, 5-3.
In game 1, things did not get off to the type of start anyone expected, as starter Tim Hudson gave up 3-first inning runs and another in the third before settling down.
Instead, it was Dodger starter Ted Lilly keeping the Braves bats quiet until handing the ball over to the bullpen, where Atlanta broke through in the ninth, as Brian McCann scored on Freddie
Freeman’s RBI-groundout and Dan Uggla scored on Nate McLouth’s RBI-double.
But Eric Hinske was unable to come through in the clutch, striking out to end the game and stranding McLouth on second.
Hudson held on to go 6 innings, giving up 6 hits,striking out 4 and walking two for just his second loss of the season (2-2).
Aside from seeing Hudson shaky in the first inning, another surprise was Fredi Gonzalez’s lineup change, moving Jason Heyward to the 2 hole and dropping Nate McLouth to the 8 spot and sliding Freeman to 6th.
In game 2, Brandon Beachy came in looking for his first win opposite Hiroki Kuroda, who threw a one-hitter against the Braves in July, 2008.
And on one of the night the Dodgers honored Fernando Valenzuela with a fleece blankey, fans got a pitchers duel, through the first 8 innings, as the Braves took a 2-1 lead into the 9th behind solo home runs by Freeman and Martin Prado.
It was an offensive explosion in the 9th, led by Hinske’s two-run blast and Uggla’s three-run shot that propelled the Braves to the 10-1 win.
Beachy threw 6 shutout innings, throwing 111 pitches as the righty gave up 2 hits, striking out 7 and walking 2 before giving way to the bullpen. Scott Linebrink got into a little trouble, giving up 3 hits and a run before giving way to Jonny Venters, who escaped a bases loaded jam in the bottom of the 7th before retiring the side in the 8th.
Derek Lowe took the mound for Wednesday night’s game, looking to snag a second straight win, but saw the exact same treatment the Dodgers gave Hudson, jumping on the former Dodger for 5 runs in the first two innings, chasing Lowe after three innings.
The Atlanta offense didn’t really get going against a quick working Jon Garland, who needed just 108 pitches, tossing a complete game, as the Braves only run came off Prado’s sacrifice fly.
Jair Jurrjens and Clayton Kershaw took the mound for the finale, and neither pitcher disappointed the afternoon crowd at Dodger Stadium.
Kershaw gave up a solo shot to Freeman before Jurrjens gave up solo blasts to Juan Uribe and Casey Blake, as the Braves went into the 9th inning down 2-1.
In the 9th, Atlanta made Kershaw work with two outs.
After Chipper singled to left, pinch runner Jason Heyward took third on Uggla’s single. After Kershaw walked Freeman to load the bases, former Dodger David Ross slapped a single to left, bringing Heyward and Uggla around to score before Broxton retired McLouth to end the rally.
With the game on the line, Gonzalez brought in rookie closer Craig Kimbrel to nail down the save.
But the youngster was unable to hold the lead, walking the Dodgers leadoff batter Jamey Carrol before Blake’s singled brought Carrol around, tying the game at 3 and blowing the save.
The Braves had a chance in the 11th with Freeman on third, but McLouth struck out swinging to end the inning.
Matt Kemp ended the game, crushing a 2-run shot off reliever Cristian Martinez, ending the game and giving the Dodgers the series victory.
Jurrjens threw 6 strong innings, giving up 7 hits and one run, striking out 6 and walking two. But Kershaw was better this day, throwing 8 2/3 innings giving up 3 runs on 5 hits, striking out 7 and walking four.
A 1-3 start to the 10-game trip was not what the Braves had in mind as a successful start, but they must put this series behind them and focus now on San Francisco (10-8) and a rematch of last year’s National League Division Series that the Giants took, 3-1, before winning the World Series over the Texas Rangers, 4-1.
In the first game Friday night, Tommy Hanson takes the ball against Madison Bumgarner.
Hanson took the loss in Sunday’s finale against the Mets, but will look to right the ship and get the Braves off to a winning start in the City by the Bay.
Looking to bounce back from a rocky start Monday against the Dodgers, Hudson goes up against Tim Lincecum, always a tough task for any lineup, escpecially a struggling one.
In the finale before heading to San Diego, Beachy starts opposite Jonathan Sanchez.
The two teams come in on very different streaks. The Giants have won 6 of 8, losing the finale in Colorado, as the Braves have lost 4 of their last 5.
But things can turn around at any time, as baseball fans have seen in recent years.
As cold as the Braves bats are, once the weather begins to warm, the bats do the same, and the offense begins to flourish.
For now, Braves Nation can only cross its fingers and hold its breathe as to when that outburst will come.
Keys to the series
- Make the Giants pitchers work!
- The Dodgers were able to work quickly as the Braves looked over anxious at times.
- Pitch with confidence, but pitch smart
- As seen in L.A., Braves pitchers were not afraid to challenge the Dodger hitters, but too many mistakes allowed the Dodgers to capitolize
- Get the offense going, somehow!
- Tuesday’s 10-run outburst was a sight for sore eyes, but the entire lineup still has not gotten going at once. Heyward is mired in a slump that will shake the confidence of anyone, but the sophomore does not seem to be pressing, yet. Freeman and McLouth enjoyed stellar offensive series’ in L.A., but the rest of the offense showed spurts of positives.
The season is still young, just 20 games deep, with a lot of baseball left to play.
Notes: Heyward is 7-for-47 in his past 14 games, and 1-25 in Dodger Stadium.. Jurrjens has given up one run in 13 innings this season.. Before Wednesday’s game, MLB took control of the Dodgers from owner Frank McCourt.. Venters did not pitch Thursday after being held out with a sore bicep in his throwing arm.. The Braves went 9-14 in April 2010 before going 20-8 in May