The Dodgers broke out of their slump, lining 19 hits to different parts of Turner Field, led by four of their young horses: Matt Kemp, Chad Billingsley, James Loney and Andre Ethier as an ESPN crowd watched around the country.
Billingsley (11-6) rolled easily through five innings in the humid Georgia heat and, despite his protests, was not allowed to resume pitching in the sixth after he developed a leg cramp.
“He was really good,” Braves catcher Brian McCann said. “He was throwing everything for strikes, it didn’t matter what count it was. He was throwing any pitch he wanted. And they're better than a really good team. Their lineup one to eight is probably the best you're going to find."
Kemp broke up a 0-0 game in the fifth inning with his 14th home run of the season and knocked in two more runs in a three-run eighth inning. Loney had three hits and is batting .350 with seven RBIs in his past nine games. Ethier also had three hits while hitting in the No. 2 slot.
Russell Martin, Mark Loretta and Orlando Hudson chipped in with two hits each and Jason Schmidt added to his resumé with a pinch-hit single, the first of his career, in the top of the sixth inning.
Scott Elbert took over the mound in the sixth inning and worked into the eighth before he gave up a single and a walk, giving way to Guillermo Mota who also surrendered a single and the Braves only run before George Sherrill got Chipper Jones on a fly to center to end the inning and Ramon Troncoso added a scoreless ninth.
The Dodgers had left seven men on base, including the bases loaded in the fourth, before they finally struck pay dirt in the fifth. With two out, Manny Ramirez collected his only hit of the night, a single to center and Loney beat out an field hit before Kemp boomed a long shot over the center field wall.
"He killed that ball," Torre said of Kemp after the game. "He's one of those guys -- you don't want to compare him or say he's as good as Alex Rodriguez or Darryl Strawberry -- but those types of hitters get the ball in the air and it looks like a fly ball and it doesn't come down. He's got that kind of power. Mike Piazza was another one. You think, 'Good, he missed it,' and it keeps going."
Martin doubled and Loretta singled him across the plate to keep the two-out rally going.
They added a single run in the sixth, again with two out, when Loney doubled to right after Schmidt and Ethier had singled. Loney's ground ball drove in Rafael Furcal, who had singled, in the eighth and Kemp dropped a looping single into center, scoring Ethier and Ramirez.
Loretta and Hudson doubled in the ninth to record the Dodgers' ninth run, the only run of the game that didn't come with two out. Loretta was filling in for Casey Blake who injured his left hand in a workout following Saturday’s game. Torre said after the game X-rays on Blake’s hand were negative and he may play Monday against Milwaukee.
Casey's unavailability gave Torre only three extra position players and resulted in Schmidt's successful pinch-hitting appearance.
Ramirez was 1-for-4 with a walk and two runs. He also made a tumbling catch of a sinking liner hit in the eighth. A smiling Ramirez, who was booed throughout the series, then tipped his cap to the fans. He was congratulated by his teammates, bowed to fans, then left in a double-switch.
The NL West-leading Dodgers won two of three against the Braves to conclude a 3-4 road trip. “Three and four doesn’t sound like a good road trip, but when you lost the first three it’s pretty good, especially considering who we had to beat tonight,” Torre said.
Both Colorado and San Francisco won but the Dodgers hung on to their seven-game lead.
The Dodgers (65-40) don't admit to even thinking about previous games. "We've got Alzheimer's," Randy Wolf told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, quick to note he's not making light of a serious illness, just underscoring his club's living-the-moment approach.
Because of the late telecast, the Dodgers sent Clayton Kershaw and Hiroki Kuroda, who will start the first two games in the Milwaukee series, home on an early plane to avoid the anticipated 4 a.m. arrival early this morning.
The Dodgers optioned Cory Wade to Albuquerque and sent disabled right-hander Ronald Belisario out for a rehab assignment with Inland Empire to tonight. Wade had been on a rehab assignment for a right shoulder strain with Albuquerque and technically was activated off the disabled list, then optioned.
If Belisario's rehab assignment goes as well as the rookie believes it will, Torre will have to make another decision. The rookie was a big part of the Dodgers' strong first half, compiling a 2.42 ERA in 43 games until going down with an elbow strain July 6.
Back in the friendly confines of Dodger Stadium, LHP Clayton Kershaw (8-5, 2.76 ERA) gets the call in the first game of the series against the Brewers. Kershaw worked eight scoreless innings against the Cardinals hitters, only for Jonathan Broxton to blow the save. Since mid-June, Kershaw has had an 0.79 ERA and is 5-0 with four no-decisions, holding opponents scoreless in five of the nine.
The Dodgers will face LHP Manny Parra (5-8, 6.50 ERA) who has been charged with nine runs on 19 hits and eight walks in 11 innings over his past two starts. In other words.
Score by Innings
Los Angeles 000 041 031-9
Atlanta 000 000 010-1
Los Angeles ab r h bi ave
Furcal ss 5 1 1 0 .264
Troncoso p 0 0 0 0 .000
Ethier rf 5 1 3 0 .274
Ramirez lf 4 2 1 0 .309
Sherrill p 0 0 0 0 .000
Castro ph-ss 1 0 1 0 .000
Loney 1b 6 1 3 2 .291
Kemp c 5 1 3 5 .315
Martin c 5 1 2 0 .263
Loretta 3b 5 1 2 1 .232
Hudson 2b 4 0 2 1 .292
Billingsley p 1 0 0 0 .200
Schmidt ph 1 1 1 0 .200
Elbert p 1 0 0 0 .200
Mota p 0 0 0 0 .000
Pierre lf 1 0 0 0 .313
Totals 44 9 19 9
Atlanta 32 1 5 1
2B- Martin (12), Loney (20), Loretta
(6), Hudson (28). HR- Kemp (14).
RBI- Kemp 5 (64), Loretta (18), Loney
2 (66), Hudson (51). S- Billingsley.
LOB- Los Angeles 13, Atlanta 6.
SB- Ethier (5).
Los Angeles in h r-er bb so era'
Billingsley (11-5) 5.0 2 0-0 1 9 3.82
Elbert 2.2 1 1-1 1 1 3.86
Mota 0.0 1 0-0 0 0 2.98
Sherrill 0.1 1 0-0 0 1 1.99
WP- Billingsley. T- 3:22. Att- 37,654.