LOS ANGELES – On a night when the youngest Brave and oldest Brave came through in big ways, it was Martin Prado’s two-out triple in the ninth that proved decisive.
Prado’s drive to the center-field wall drove in Tyler Pastornicky with the go-ahead run, and the Braves hung on for a 4-3 win against the Los Angeles Dodgers, stopping a two-game slide and evening the series at a game apiece.
“We all battle,” said Prado, who also drove in a tying run in the fifth. “That’s the important thing about this team, we feel like we can do this even in tough situations.”
Craig Kimbrel struck out Tony Gwynn Jr. with two on in the ninth for his sixth save, and the Braves handed the Dodgers their first loss in eight games at Dodger Stadium.
Chipper Jones homered on his 40th birthday and 22-year-old shortstop Pastornicky had three hits and a walk, including a leadoff single in the ninth. The Braves improved to 11-2 in games Jones has played on his birthday.
“That’s good — everybody gets as jacked up as I do to play on my birthday,” cracked Jones said, who homered on the first pitch of the fifth inning to cut the Dodgers’ lead in half to 2-1.
“I really wanted us to win this ballgame and make a series out of it “They took it to us pretty good last night. It’s good that we bounced back and won this ballgame.”
Pastornicky advanced on a sacrifice, then scored one out later when Prado capped a seven-pitch at-bat against closer Javy Guerra by hitting a ball to the wall that center fielder Matt Kemp leaped for but came up empty.
Pastornicky, 22, excelled in his first game back in the lineup after being benched for three to work on his swing. He raised his average from .171 to .227.
Jones’ fifth-inning homer came off Dodgers starter Aaron Harang — one inning after the Dodgers paid tribute to the retiring third baseman on their video board. He’s hit .429 with five homers and 11 RBIs on his birthday, and became the fifth player ever to homer on the day he turned 40.
“I’m just glad to have the opportunity to go out there and play baseball at the age of 40,” said Jones, who joined Bob Thurman (1957), Tony Phillips (1999), Joe Morgan (1983) and Wade Bogggs (1998).
“It’s been a fun ride, and it’s a good way to have my last birthday in the big leagues go, to have it come out the right way.”
Jones had missed Monday’s 7-2 series-opening loss due to soreness in his surgically repaired left knee.
“Maybe we can trick him again tomorrow and say it’s his birthday,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He stands up on those occasions. Home run, and every at-bat he squared up the ball.
“It seems like every time we give him a couple of days to get that knee ready, he answers the call and gives us a good performance.”
Braves starter Mike Minor gave up eight hits and three runs in six innings, with no walks and two strikeouts. The left-hander got no decision and has a 1.27 ERA and 2-0 record in three starts since giving up six runs in his season debut.
The Dodgers jumped out to a first-inning lead on Juan Rivera’s two-run, two-out homer that sailed into the loge-level seats down the left-field line, the 20th homer to land in the third-deck seats in Dodger Stadium’s 50-year history. It traveled an estimated 437 feet. Mark Ellis had reached on a bloop single.
Minor settled down and pitched well after the homer.
“That was going to be the biggest thing, because they’re such a good-hitting team,” he said. “To give up two runs like that early on, I was kind of [ticked] off about it…. Ellis got on with the broken-bat changeup hit, and then I just threw a terrible slider to Rivera. He did what he was supposed to do with that.”
Minor recorded 12 outs in the next 12 batters following the Rivera homer.
“He made one mistake [to Rivera],” Jones said. “They bled some balls in off of him to get that third run, but he made mistake, Rivera made him pay for it. Got us in a hole, but he didn’t cave on us. He kept us in the ballgame until the bats were finally able to get to Harang.
“Can’t say enough about the job [Minor] has done from Day 1 of spring training. I mean, he’s been our most consistent pitcher.”
Minor gave up leadoff hits in the second and fourth innings during that stretch, but the Braves turned double plays after each hit. One of those was an spectacular play by Uggla, who made an over-the-shoulder catch while falling in shallow right field, then scrambled to get to his feet and fired to first base to double up Kemp on a close play.
Jones’ leadoff homer in the fifth was only the second hit off Harang and first since Michael Bourn’s leadoff double in the first inning. Jones hit the first pitch into the Dodgers bullpen beyond right field, his 457th home run and 13th at Dodger Stadium.
“Mike kept us in the game and Chipper came up big for us and hit the homer,” Prado said. “After that we kept playing inning by inning, at-bat by at-bat, everybody had great at-bats. I’m just glad I got a big hit to help the team. It was a big game.”
After Jones’ homer, Heyward and Pastornicky followed with singles and moved up on a Minor sacrifice. Michael Bourn walked and Prado’s bases-loaded groundout drove in the tying run.
An inning later the Braves took the lead despite again failing to get a hit with runners in scoring position. Brian McCann hit a leadoff single and Uggla walked before Jones grounded into a double play, making the Braves 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, after going 0-for-6 in Monday’s series opener.
The Dodgers intentionally walked Heyward to bring up No. 8 hitter Pastornicky. After getting ahead 0-and-2 against Pastornicky, Harang threw a wild pitch and McCann alertly scored to put the Braves ahead 3-2.
The Braves had their first lead since the second inning Sunday at Arizona. But it didn’t last long.
The Dodgers got consecutive singles to start the sixth inning and bring up Kemp, the majors’ best hitter so far this season. Kemp was 8-for-15 with four homers with runners in scoring position before facing Minor, who induced a would-be double-play grounder to Pastornicky. He threw to second for the first out, but Uggla bounced a throw past first baseman Freeman to let in the tying run.
Kemp was called out on an appeal for making a move toward second base after he’d crossed first base and run about 20 feet up the line. The run was earned because Rivera followed with an infield single before Minor got out of the inning.