Dodgers-Braves: Andre Ethier Tomahawks Atlanta with Walk-Off Winner

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Dodgers-Braves: Andre Ethier Tomahawks Atlanta with Walk-Off Winner

Andre Ethier is a beast.

For the fifth time this year, Ethier ended the game in walk-off fashion, this time with a three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth off Atlanta Braves closer Rafael Soriano to give the Los Angeles Dodgers a 5-4 victory.

It was the 29th comeback win this season the Major League’s best team as they stole a win and increased their lead in the NL West to 6.5 games over the San Francisco Giants.

The Dodgers (67-42) faced the Braves (55-54) for the first of a four-game weekend set in the Southland as Derek Lowe made his return to Dodger Stadium for the first time since departing during the offseason to join the Braves.

Lowe induced 14 groundball outs in 6.1 innings of work and limited the Dodgers offense to just two runs before handing the game over to the bullpen.

The Boys in Blue were playing catch-up the entire evening after the Braves sprung out toe a 2-0 lead in the second inning when Matt Diaz and Adam LaRoche each notched RBI singles off Dodgers’ starter Randy Wolf.

Wolf, an L.A. native from Canoga Park, went seven innings and allowed four runs on nine hits, but perhaps the stat that hurt him the most was the three walks on the night. One of those came with the bases loaded to Nate McLouth in the fourth, which forced home a run and gave the Braves a 3-1 lead at that point.

The veteran uncharacteristically worked from behind in the count all night long as he struggled to throw first-pitch strikes to hitters (13-for-32), but still managed to provide some rest for the bullpen by pitching six-plus innings for the eighth consecutive outing.

Wolf has been a workhorse for Joe Torre this season, going at least six in 20 of 24 starts this season.

The fourth Atlanta run came when Chipper Jones drove a ball off Wolf over the right-center field wall in the seventh inning, adding an insurance run an extending the Braves lead to 4-2; Jones was 3-for-4 on the night and also had a double earlier in the contest.

Los Angeles scored their first run when they finally broke through against Lowe in the third inning.

Ethier crushed a ball high off the wall in right field, forcing the right-fielder Diaz to make a jumping attempt against the fence. He came up just short and the ball ricocheted back towards the infield, allowing Ethier to make it all the way to third with a one-out triple.

Manny Ramirez promptly plated the first Dodgers’ run and cut the Braves lead to 2-1 when he drove Ethier in with a line drive, RBI-single to left field. Ramirez was 2-for-4 on the night and looked much more comfortable following a day off in the series finale against the Milwaukee Brewers last night.

The Dodgers added another with one out in the fourth, when Orlando Hudson bounced an infield single off the glove of Lowe to reach base. He then took off on a hit-and-run play, and with the shortstop Yunel Escobar covering second, Wolf slapped a single through the hole, which allowed Hudson to advance to third with just one out.

Hitting in the ninth spot in the order and giving Matt Kemp a night off, Juan Pierre followed by lifting a sacrifice fly to centerfield, scoring Hudson and cutting the deficit to one run at 3-2.

Los Angeles mounted a rally in the seventh inning that chased Lowe from the game. They put runners on first and second with one out and Ethier coming to bat, which caused Braves manager Bobby Cox to go to the bullpen for the southpaw Eric O’Flaherty.

The lefty got Ethier to fly out to the warning track in left-center field, bringing up Ramirez as the go-ahead run.

Cox went to the bullpen again, this time for Peter Moylan, to face the dreadlocked slugger in a crucial at-bat. Ramirez battled but struck out on a hard slider down and away on a 2-2 count, ending the inning and preserving the Atlanta lead.

The Blue Crew once again put pressure on the Braves when they put the first two runners on base to start the eighth.

Joe Torre called on Martin to sacrifice bunt with men at first and second, but Martin pushed the attempt to LaRoche charging from first base, who fired over to Jones at third for a force out.

Martin needed to put the bunt down the third base line so Jones would have to charge and leave the bases uncovered, which would allow the runner to advance to third easily.

Hudson followed with a groundout to second that moved the tying run into scoring position for pinch-hitter Matt Kemp. Just as he did to Ramirez an inning earlier, Moylan got Kemp to go fishing after a 2-2 breaking ball, and Kemp swung and missed to leave two more runners on base.

The ninth inning was no different, as the Dodgers put runners at the corners with no one out to setup the dramatic blast by Ethier, which ended the game with Ramirez waiting on-deck.

Tomorrow night pits Dodgers’ right-hander Chad Billingsley (11-6, 3.82) against the Braves youngster Jair Jurrjens (9-8, 3.85). Billingsley beat Jurrjens last Sunday night but left the game after five innings with a cramp in his hamstring. He figures to be ready to go without the hamstring bothering him.

 

 

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WP: Elbert (2-0)

LP: Soriano (1-3)

 

Notes from Thursday night

 

Southern Un-Comfort

Randy Wolf entered the game just 4-12 with a 5.32 ERA in 26 career games against the Braves. He last defeated the team on Sept. 9, 2003 when he was pitching with the Philadelphia Phillies.

 

Mr. 1,000

Orlando Hudson collected his 1,000th career hit tonight with an infield single in the fourth inning.  

 

There’s a First for Everything

With two outs in the fourth inning, Randy Wolf stole the first base of his career. First baseman Casey Kotchman wasn’t holding Wolf on, and veteran took advantage by swiping the base standing up without even drawing a throw from the catcher. 

 

PJ Ross is a Featured Columnist for the Los Angeles Dodgers 

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