Braves pummeled by Dodgers in second straight blowout loss

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NL East standings through Thursday 1. Phillies: 58-44 2. Braves: 54-45, 2 1/2 games behind 3. Nationals: 51-51, 7 games behind 4. Mets: 43-57, 14 games behind 5. Marlins: 44-60, 15 games behind

Veterans Anibal Sanchez and Rich Hill were both lost in the big-league picture, hanging on by a thread. Both have since rejuvenated their careers, and they met head-to-head Thursday night.

Hill outdid Sanchez in the slow-pitch derby. The Braves’ bullpen again couldn’t hold the opponent. The offense, save one swing, was silent.

And, as you’ve probably figured out, the Dodgers beat the Braves 8-2 in the first of four meetings at SunTrust Park. They’ve been outscored 17-5 in the past two games.

The Braves didn’t get a runner to second until two outs in the sixth inning. It required a throwing error that put Freddie Freeman on, then a Nick Markakis walk to move him over. Kurt Suzuki flew out and that was that.

These haven’t looked like the same Braves that were capturing hearts through the first two months.

The starting pitching has essentially been a roll of the dice. The bullpen needs help. The timely hitting has vanished. Even the exceptional defense has teetered lately - they’ve made three errors in back-to-back games.

But the Dodgers should be given full credit. Their win extended their lead in the National League West by 1 ½ games over Arizona. They’ve rebounded from an extremely poor start, and again look like perhaps the top threat in the NL.

Sanchez left with one out in the seventh and a 4-0 deficit. He struck out out Chris Taylor to start the inning, but Ozzie Albies committed a throwing error on Alex Verdugo’s single.

Hill singled, chasing Sanchez from the game. Joc Pederson doubled off Sam Freeman, who intentionally walked Manny Machado afterwards. Freeman struck out Max Muncy, but Yasmani Grandal plated another two runs and made it a six-run advantage.

Freeman was charged with only one run. Luke Jackson allowed another pair in the eighth, letting the Dodgers pile on.

Sanchez pitched well for the first four innings. He walked Matt Kemp, who received a minimal reaction from the Atlanta crowd, to start the fifth inning. Cody Bellinger singled, and Taylor’s groundout scored Kemp. Verdugo knocked in Bellinger for the second run.

Manny Machado hit his first homer as a Dodger to begin the sixth. He hammered Sanchez’s first-pitch, 88-mph four-seamer in the stands for a 3-0 lead.

The Braves’ only source of offense came via a Ronald Acuna homer in the eighth. His two-run shot off Daniel Hudson with his ninth of the season.

Sanchez, 34, completed 6 1/3 innings, his fifth time exceeding six innings in five July starts. But he couldn’t match the 38-year-old Hill, who pitched seven scoreless, allowing only three hits.

Fans are calling for the Braves to make moves with the trade deadline five days away. The reality is the team has several holes, and little time to fill them all. They could stand to add a starter, bat and multiple relievers.

Since their 19-11 start, the Braves are 35-34, a pace that could well affect their deadline plans.