Gearrin slammed in eighth inning of Braves’ 5-0 loss to Dodgers

LOS ANGELES — After wasting a strong pitching performance by Tim Hudson and failing to capitalize on a couple of late scoring opportunities, the Braves had things blow up in their faces Thursday night when a Dodgers rookie earned another curtain call.

Yasiel Puig hit a grand slam off reliever Cory Gearrin with one out in the eighth inning, turning a close game into a 5-0 Braves loss in a series opener at Dodger Stadium.

The Braves had their five-game winning streak snapped as their recent road woes continued.

On a night when Braves pitcher Tim Hudson made precious few mistakes, a bit of miscommunication in the outfield proved costly. Then, and later when the Braves needed to pinch-hit for Hudson in the seventh, which led to Gearrin pitching the eighth when Hudson had thrown only 76 pitches.

Gearrin struck out the first batter in the inning, then gave up consecutive singles and walked pinch-hitter Hanley Ramirez before giving up a long homer to Puig on a first-pitch slider over the middle of the plate.

“Just got to make better pitches, get the ball down more,” said Gearrin, a right-hander sidearmer who was making his fourth appearance since May 26, when he gave up four hits and three runs in the eighth inning for a blown save against the Mets. Against the Dodgers, he got one out and allowed three hits, four runs and a walk.

“The first two hits kind of fell in there and got it going,” Gearrin said. “Just have to make better pitches. I’m a groundball pitcher; there’s no excuse for that. I’ve got to learn from it.”

Manager Fredi Gonzalez turned to rookie Alex Wood to get the last two outs of the inning, but the damage had already been done, the game put out of reach.

“It’s a situation where, that’s his inning,” Gonzalez said of Gearrin. “Especially with four out of five right-handers coming out. Getting right-handers out. Just didn’t get it done today.”

It was the third homer in four games for Puig, a 22-year-old Cuban just called up from Double-A this week. He already has seven hits and nine RBIs, including a two-homer game Tuesday against San Diego.

“He’s a good baseball player,” Gonzalez said. “Offensively and defensively.”

The Braves have won 12 of their past 14 home games, but dropped eight of 12 on the road including four consecutive losses in California. They’ll play three more at Dodger Stadium, then three at San Diego on this trip.

If not for the second-inning mishap in the outfield, Hudson might have been in position to pitch eight or even nine innings, given his low pitch count.

Andre Ethier’s deep fly ball in the second inning landed between center fielder B.J. Upton and right fielder Jason Heyward, who pulled up at the last moment, apparently unsure if Upton was going to catch it or concerned about colliding. Ethier was credited with a double, which put runners on second and third.

Scott Van Slyke had started the inning with a single, and Skip Schumaker followed two batters after Ethier with a groundout for a 1-0 lead.

“It was in no-man’s land, but I take responsibility for not exactly knowing, for sure, 100 percent, which side of (second) base he was on,” Heyward said of Upton. “As far as playing (Ethier) a step to the left or a step to the opposite field. We were both kind of playing away from each other – I was playing a step pull, because he was ahead in the count; and B.J. was playing him a step to the left-center gap.

“A ball where both of us could have caught it, but one of those where you don’t have time to speak on it. If I’m going to catch that ball (regardless of Upton’s location) and making him call me off, then it’s definitely a catchable ball.”

After advancing only one runner past first base through six innings, the Braves finally looked ready to do some damage against Dodgers starter Zack Greinke (3-1) in the seventh. But after consecutive singles by Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann put runners on the corners with none out, Greinke worked out of the jam.

He struck out Dan Uggla, who flailed at a breaking ball for the third strike, then got Ramiro Pena on a line-out to left field and B.J. Upton on an easy fly to right. It was the 75th strikeout for Uggla, who leads the National League.

“We had some people on base,” Gonzalez said. “First and third with nobody out, and couldn’t get a run. Those situations come back to haunt you every single time. And then that eighth inning, our bullpen couldn’t keep them in check, to give our offense a fighting chance. One run or two runs is a lot different than being down five.”

Of the Uggla strikeout, Gonzalez said, “A productive out is better. We (could) get something done there, but we didn’t.”

It was a tough loss for Hudson (4-5), who pitched seven crisp innings, allowing four hits, one run and no walks with five strikeouts. He retired 15 consecutive batters before an infield single by Adrian Gonzalez in the seventh inning. Gonzalez was erased on a double-play grounder as Hudson recorded 18 outs in the last 18 batters he faced.

“Huddy was outstanding. Give up one run, seven innings of work – you can’t do much better than that,” Fredi Gonzalez said. “Usually when you give up one run, you’ve got a real good chance to win the ballgame. But we didn’t.”

It was the second consecutive strong start for Hudson, who was charged with only three hits and one unearned run in 7-1/3 innings Saturday against Washington. Before his past two games, the veteran was 0-3 with an 8.69 ERA in a four-start span.

Hudson left for a pinch-hitter when his spot came up to start the eighth inning with the Braves trailing by a run. Pinch-hitter Jordan Schafer hit a leadoff single in the eighth, but was doubled off of first base when Andrelton Simmons flied out to center field.

Simmons’ career-best 11-game hitting streak came to an end when he went 0-for-4, lining out twice to shortstop and center field to start the first and sixth inning. It was the longest Braves hitting streak so far this season.

The Braves had moved to a season-high 15 games over .500 with their three-game sweep of Pittsburgh that ended Wednesday in Atlanta, and had hoped to keep adding to what was a majors-leading 7-1/2-game lead in the NL East.