LOS ANGELES – No team in the past century had a better 35-game stretch than the blistering-hot Dodgers brought into their series opener against the Braves on Thursday night, but the Braves probably figured that meant the Dodgers were due for a defeat.
The Braves took a 2-0 lead in the first inning and led 6-1 after four innings on the way to a 6-3 victory at Dodger Stadium, snapping the Dodgers’ 11-game winning streak and handing them just their fifth loss in 36 games and second loss in 20 home games.
“It’s big, definitely,” said the Braves’ Freddie Freeman, who had RBI singles in the first and third innings, “after getting swept in the last series (by the Cubs), to turn it around and get the first one against probably the best team in baseball right now. We’ve got tough matchups the next three days, but we’re up for the test.”
Kurt Suzuki added a two-run homer for the Braves and Mike Foltynewicz (8-5) allowed six hits and three runs in 6 1/3 innings to win his fifth consecutive decision. The Braves have won eight consecutive games started by Foltynewicz.
“The offense set the tone early, getting a couple of runs,” said Foltynewicz, who had two walks and five strikeouts and had a 6-1 lead before Yasmani Grandal’s two-run homer in the sixth inning. “I got away with mistakes a couple of times here and there but they hit some good pitches, too. It was overall a good night. Our offense stepped up big, defense played great, (Johan) Camargo made some plays out there, (Danny) Santana in left field, so it was overall a great team win.”
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Santana entered the game in the ninth inning and caught Joc Pederson’s sinking line drive in left field after Grandal’s leadoff double in the ninth inning. But the win wasn’t secured until second baseman Camargo made a spectacular, twisting catch in shallow center field with his back to the plate with two runners in scoring position to end the game.
“That was a hell of a play, wasn’t it? My God,” said manager Brian Snitker, after the Braves won for the first time in more than two years at Dodger Stadium. “That’s just kind of willing yourself to catch that ball, it looked like to me. That’s a huge play.”
Thursday’s win came in the opener of an 11-game, three-city road trip, against a Dodgers team that still has the best record in the majors at 66-30 and the best home record at 39-12.
Braves second baseman Brandon Phillips left the game after the top of the fifth inning due to right hamstring soreness and was listed as day-to-day, but Snitker said the move was precautionary and he expected Phillips would play Friday.
Phillips appeared to tighten up when he tripled to start the third inning. He could be seen trying to shake the soreness out of his leg after he stood up. He scored on a Freddie Freeman single in the inning to push the Braves lead to 3-1.
After he left the game, Camargo moved from shortstop to second base and Dansby Swanson came in at shortstop.
Before Thursday, the Dodgers’ .780 home winning percentage had them on pace for the best single-season mark by an National League team since Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine” went 64-17 (.790) at home in 1975.
“Pretty big (to win the series opener), because we’re trying to win every game we can, too,” Snitker said. “They’ve been hot. To win something like that it takes a well-pitched ballgame, and we got it.”
The Braves were 1-8 at Dodger Stadium since the beginning of the 2014 season, their only win in that span came in a May 2015 game when Alex Wood started and got the decision. The Braves will face Wood on Friday and try to be the first team this season to beat the Dodgers left-hander, who is 11-0 with a 1.56 ERA and pitched in his first All-Star game last week.
It’s almost a requirement to take an early lead if a team is to beat these Dodgers, and the Braves did that by scoring twice in the first inning against Brandon McCarthy, the only right-hander scheduled to pitch for the Dodgers in the series. The Dodgers have an all-time major league-record streak of 44 consecutive wins in games in which they led at any point.
“Take these fans out of it, that’s what you’ve got to try and do,” Freeman said. “They tried to come back, Yas (Grandal) had the big two-run home run and the crowd started to come back. But our bullpen came and shut it down.”
Ender Inciarte singled on the second pitch of the game, advanced on a Phillips ground-out and scored on Freeman’s single. Matt Kemp followed with a single before Matt Adams bounced a double over the fence to push the lead to 2-0.
The Braves still had two runners in scoring position with one out, but left them there after pop-ups by Nick Markakis and Suzuki. That duo would make amends in the fourth inning when Markakis drew a leadoff walk and Suzuki hit a two-run homer into the Dodgers bullpen beyond left field.
The Braves tacked on another run in the fourth when Camargo singled, advanced on a Foltynewicz bunt and scored on Inciarte’s single for a 6-1 lead.
Foltynewicz allowed only four hits and one run until the sixth inning, when Chris Taylor hit a one-out double and Grandal followed with his 13th home run, cutting the Braves lead to 6-3.
Before Thursday, the Dodgers led the majors with 72 homers during their 35-game tear since June 7 and led the National League in both ERA (2.86) and scoring average (5.8) during that torrid stretch.
Foltynewicz is 5-0 with a 3.33 ERA in his past nine starts, which included eight earned runs allowed in 3 1/3 innings of a June 12 game at Washington that the Braves won, 11-10. In his other eight starts in that period he has a 2.17 ERA, allowing three runs or fewer in all eight starts and one or no runs in four.
The Braves improved to 13-5 against NL West opponents — more wins than they had against that division in any of the previous three seasons — and have six more games against them on this trip, including three in L.A., then three at Arizona.
A year ago the Braves were 11-22 against NL West teams, and during 2014-2016 they were a combined 35-64 against the division.