LOS ANGELES – Five straight hits, and one nasty blow to the face.
That was the damage the Braves wrought upon Dodgers closer Javy Guerra in a riveting ninth-inning rally that produced three runs and a highly improbable 4-2 comeback win for Atlanta at Dodger Stadium.
“It’s a great, great win for the ballclub,” said third baseman Chipper Jones, who had the fourth of the ninth-inning singles and drove in the winning run, after which he pumped his fist. “A great series win, a great road trip.”
Catcher Brian McCann, who had the second hit of the inning: “This was huge. To win two out of three here. This was an amazing road trip that we just played. To come out west and do what we did, the way we did it – it’s pretty special.”
The Braves won the last two games to take the series 2-1 and finish a 5-2 trip that began in Arizona. They’ve won 12 of their past 15 games and handed the NL West-leading Dodgers their first two home losses of the season.
After a red-eye flight back to Atlanta, the Braves are off Thursday and start a seven-game homestand Friday against Pittsburgh, followed by Philadelphia.
“Yeah, we’ll probably get in at 6 or 7 in the morning, but it won’t matter,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, smiling. “We may get there before the plane does.”
The Braves trailed 2-1 before Freddie Freeman’s one-out single in the ninth. McCann followed with a line drive that caromed off the side of Guerra’s face, but remarkably didn’t knock him out of the game. He was checked by a team trainer and stayed in the game.
No one was more relieved than McCann, whose line-drive foul ball in a 2010 spring training game hit Braves minor league manager Luis Salazar in the face and damaged his left eye so badly that he had to have it removed.
“Oh, man,” McCann said. “I told a couple of guys he’s my new favorite player. I mean, it didn’t even faze him. I hit it as hard as I possibly could, and I don’t think it even hit his glove. And for him to get up and pitch … I don’t think too many guys would want to mess with him.”
Dan Uggla was up next and singled to right to drive in the tying run, after falling behind 0-and-2 in the count. Jones followed and singled through the right side on an 0-and-2 pitch to give the Braves their first lead since the fourth inning.
Jason Heyward’s opposite-field single to left pushed the lead to 4-2.
“To come in with one out and nobody on and get five straight hits off a guy that kind of stuff,” Jones said. “I mean, I never faced [Guerra] before and he threw me that first pitch, and I was like, oh boy, I’ve got my hands full here. But he made a mistake to a couple of guys in that inning and we didn’t miss them.”
Jones’ game-winning RBI came after he homered Tuesday on his 40th birthday in a 4-3 win. The Braves also won that one in their last at-bat on Martin Prado’s two-out triple in the ninth.
“It’s a testament to our team,” Freeman said. “We keep going from the first through the ninth.”
There was a chorus of boos from a crowd of 26,345 as Guerra left the field. For the sake of Dodgers fans, let’s say some were directed at the decision not to pull Guerra after the frightening incident or the next hit … or the one after that …
“These are not my fans, but I was a little disappointed that they booed him,” Gonzalez said. This guy took one off the face and tried to stay in there and save the game, and they booed him coming off the field. You’ve got to give the guy credit for some courage there.”
In a span of five batters, the Braves had one more hit than they’d mustered the previous eight innings.
“It says a lot,” Braves reliever Jonny Venters (2-0) said of the comeback. “We’re always in the game. Especially to come back against Guerra, who’s a great closer… It was a big turnaround. We were in the dugout watching it happen. Real exciting.”
Venters struck out the side in the eighth inning, and Craig Kimbrel struck out two in a perfect ninth inning for his seventh save.
In the seventh, Braves starter Brandon Beachy gave up a one-out single before reliever Chad Durbin induced a flyout by Mark Ellis. Durbin walked scorching-hot Matt Kemp and lefty Eric O’Flaherty struck out Andre Ethier with two on to end the inning.
“I thought a key to the game was in the seventh inning,” Gonzalez said. “Having Durbin come in to face Ellis and get the out, and O’Flaherty get Ethier out. It gave us a chance. Kept it right there, one run, gave us a chance to do what we did there.”
The Braves have won 12 of 15 games and five consecutive series after being swept at New York by the Mets to begin the season.
It had been seven months and 42 innings since Braves starter Brandon Beachy gave up a home run. Kemp ended that streak with a leadoff homer in the sixth inning that gave the Dodgers a 2-1 lead.
A lead that looked like it would stand – until the improbable flurry in the ninth.
It was the majors-leading 10th homer for Kemp, who matched Gary Sheffield’s 12-year-old franchise record for home runs in April.
Beachy had whittled his ERA to a majors-leading 0.38 in the fifth inning before Dee Gordon’s broken-bat groundout drove in the tying run, only the second earned run allowed by the right-hander this season.
Kemp led off the fifth by swinging through the first two pitches. The next two were called balls, and Kemp hit the fifth – a change-up – to the bleachers in left-center field to trigger chants of “M-V-P!, M-V-P!” from a crowd of 26,345 on a cool night at Chavez Ravine, where Kemp has hit five homers in just 31 at-bats.
Intermittent showers never turned into the heavy rain some had predicted might cause only the 18th rainout in the 50-year history of Dodger Stadium.
The Braves took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning on Uggla’s two-out single off left-hander Ted Lilly. He drove in Freeman, who had doubled.
After the Uggla hit, Jones grounded out to end the inning and begin a stretch of 10 consecutive batters retired by Lilly before he left the game after seven innings. Lilly gave up only three hits and one walk.
Until Kemp put the Dodgers ahead, the last homer off Beachy was hit by Raul Ibanez, then of the Phillies, on Sept. 7. Beachy didn’t give up a homer in his last three starts of 2011 or his first three this season, and entered Wednesday with a .191 opponents’ slugging percentage that led the NL.