The Dodgers have the best record in the majors and are in the midst of one of the greatest two-month runs in major league history, but the Braves must look at that and go, pfft. Because the Braves, of all teams, have made them look like mere mortals during that otherwise torrid stretch.
Tyler Flowers hit a two-run, two-out pinch-hit homer in the eighth inning Wednesday to lift the Braves to a 5-3 win against the Dodgers at SunTrust Park, their third win in two weeks against a Dodgers team that has lost to no other team since July 4. They’re 3-3 against the Braves in that span and 17-0 against every everyone else.
“I’ve only got two hits pinch-hitting in my career, so yeah, that’s the first (pinch) homer,” said Flowers, who homered off reliever Pedro Baez after rookie Johan Camargo drew a two-out walk against the right-hander. “I was trying to hit, like, a ground ball to the right side. Second baseman was kind of shifted over. I was trying to shoot that hole and turn the lineup over. I really wasn’t trying to hit a homer or anything.”
But he did. And the Braves snapped the Dodgers nine-game winning streak, after snapping their 11-game winning streak on July 20 and beating them again July 21 for the only consecutive losses by the Dodgers since June 6. The Braves will try to do it again when rookie lefty Sean Newcomb faces former Braves lefty Alex Wood in Thursday night’s series finale.
The Braves also got a two-run homer from Danny Santana in the second inning to erase a 1-0 Dodgers lead.
“We’ve played some tough games against these guys,” said manager Brian Snitker, whose Braves showed plenty of emotion after moving ahead on the Flowers homer and closing out the win. “We’ve been in all of them and we’ve had a good season series against them, some competitive games and big hits by both clubs. That was a good one for us to get.”
Also snapped Tuesday was the Dodgers’ remarkable majors-record streak of 53 consecutive wins in games in which they led at any point. They led twice Wednesday, 1-0 and 3-2.
The Dodgers reached 75 wins faster than any team in franchise history, and they entered Wednesday on a jaw-dropping 40-6 run that was the best 46-game stretch since the 1941 Yankees also had a 40-6 run.
The Braves have won only four of their past 16 games, but three wins came against the Dodgers. Go Figure.
They took a 2-1 lead on Santana’s homer in the second inning and had a chance to reclaim the lead in the seventh inning when former Braves lefty Luis Avilan walked Freddie Freeman and Kurt Suzuki with two out and the score tied, 3-3.
Nick Markakis followed with a single that glanced off Avilan’s leg and nearly got through to center field, but was stopped by second baseman Logan Forsythe. The ball was stopped but Freeman was not – third-base coach Ron Washington sent Freeman all the way from second base and he was thrown out easily at the plate for the third out in the inning.
Braves starter Julio Teheran was charged with four hits, three runs and no walks in five innings and exited early with cramping in his right thigh after throwing just 64 pitches. He tweaked the leg on a fourth-inning at-bat, stayed in the game after being checked by a trainer, then had no issue fielding Yasmani Grandal’s bunt and throwing to first base for the out when the Dodgers tested Teheran to start the fifth inning.
But the medical staff and Snitker, not sure at the time that it was just a cramp, didn’t want to risk further injury.
Four Braves relievers limited the Dodgers to two hits and one walk over four scoreless innings, with Rex Brothers striking out two in a perfect 1 1/3 innings to set up Arodys Vizcaino, who pitched a perfect ninth with one strikeout for his third save.
“Bullpen came in and picked Julio up and did a great job,” Snitker said. “And Julio did a great job. That was good to see.”
Cody Bellinger’s second-inning homer was the rookie’s 30th, and the 27th allowed by Teheran to match the career high he set in 2015 in 33 starts. He’s given up that many in 22 starts this season.
It was also the seventh homer allowed by Teheran in a span of 13 innings over three starts, including three in 6 1/3 innings of a 6-2 loss to the Dodgers on July 22. He gave up three more homers and eight earned runs in 4 2/3 innings of a 10-3 loss at Philadelphia on Friday.
So when he gave up the homer to Bellinger, the fourth batter he faced Wednesday, there was reason for concern, especially given Teheran’s struggles at SunTrust Park. Before Wednesday he was 1-7 with a 7.05 ERA in 10 home starts compared to 6-2 with a 3.57 ERA in 11 road starts.
But after the Bellinger homer, Teheran retired six of the next seven before hitting Chris Taylor with an 0-2 pitch to start the fourth inning.
The Braves, meanwhile, took a 2-1 lead when Santana answered Bellinger’s homer with a two-run shot on the next pitch after Markakis’s one-out walk in the second inning. They were the first two earned runs allowed by Dodgers starter Brock Stewart, who made his second start after six scoreless relief appearances.
Santana started in left field in what’s expected to be Matt Adams’ primary position until Matt Kemp returns from a hamstring injury. Adams left Tuesday’s game with dizziness from a possible virus and the Braves wanted him to get another day to rest before his expected return to the lineup Thursday.
The Dodgers tied the score in the fourth after Teheran hit Taylor. He stole second base, advanced to third on a Bellinger fly-out to right and scored on Joc Pederson’s ground-out to first baseman Freeman, who made a nice diving stop to catch the ball near the base but had no chance to make a play at home with the speedy Taylor going on contact.
The lead went back to the Dodgers in the fifth after Yasiel Puig doubled and scored on Chase Utley’s two-out single, but the Braves answered with a tying run again in the bottom of the fifth after Inciarte hit a leadoff single, advanced on a ground-out and scored on Freeman’s one-out single.
Teheran snapped a string of three losses in his past three starts but still has only one win in six decisions over his past eight starts. He’s 1-5 with a 5.52 ERA and 11 homers allowed in 45 2/3 innings over that span.