LOS ANGELES (AP)—Somebody finally got to Eric Gagne. Naturally, it was the top team in the National League.
The Dodgers closer, who set a club record with 52 saves last year, retired only one of the five batters he faced.
“Who would expect that off Gagne? It’s one of those freak things that happens,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “But our hitters have been hot and they’ve been swinging the bats good for a long time.”
Vinny Castilla also homered for the NL East-leading Braves, who have won 22 of 26 after a 4-8 start. The Dodgers are only one game over .500 despite entering the game with the lowest ERA in the majors.
Marcus Giles broke a 4-4 tie with an RBI single that scored pinch-runner Mark DeRosa, who was sacrificed to second by winning pitcher Jung Keun Bong. Castilla led off the ninth with a single against Gagne (0-1).
Sheffield chased Gagne with a two-run double over the head of left fielder Brian Jordan.
“He’s a great pitcher and one of the best closers in the game,” Castilla said. “But tonight we were swinging the bats good.”
Bong (4-0) got the win despite giving up an RBI single to pinch-hitter Ron Coomer in the seventh that tied the game. Bong threw 2 2-3 scoreless innings, allowing one hit and walking one.
“He’s got three quality pitches—fastball, changeup and breaking ball,” pitching coach Leo Mazzone said. “You like to feel that when you bring him in, it doesn’t have to be against a left-handed hitter up there. It can be either a lefty or a righty because of his style of pitching.”
Atlanta starter Shane Reynolds left after 5 1-3 innings with a 4-2 lead, but the Braves’ revamped bullpen failed to hold it. Reynolds, pitching on three days’ rest for the first time in six starts since signing with Atlanta on April 10, was charged with three runs and three hits.
Dodgers starter Hideo Nomo allowed four runs—three earned—and four hits in seven innings, striking out five and tying a career high with seven walks. It was the fifth time the right-hander has walked seven in a game.
“Nomo didn’t have his best stuff and it wasn’t his best outing,” catcher Paul Lo Duca said. “The split-finger was the one pitch he had trouble with tonight.”
Sheffield and Jordan, traded for each other before last season, both played hurt in the opener of the three-game series.
Sheffield was hit on the left forearm Sunday by a 95 mph pitch from San Francisco’s Jason Schmidt, and wasn’t sure of his availability until taking batting practice. Nomo walked Sheffield three straight times after his RBI single in the first inning.
“Our trainers were pounding treatment on me for almost an hour, and I didn’t think it was going to come around,” Sheffield said. “I came into the clubhouse, and when I took off the bandage, the pressure went down—but it was going down into my wrist. So I decided to go into the cage, and once I hit in there, I was fine.”
Jordan was hurt in a freak accident Sunday, when a ball hit by Dave Roberts during batting practice came back and struck Jordan on the outside of his right hand as he was leaning on the batting cage. X-rays taken Monday were negative.
“I’m just happy nothing’s broken. It’s a big relief,” Jordan said. “I wasnervous all night. I couldn’t even sleep.”
Braves 1B Robert Fick, who went to nearby Cal State-Northridge, returned to the clubhouse without his glove because a fan ran off with it. “I was signing autographs,” Fick said sheepishly, “and some kid said, “Hey, did you give your glove to that lady?” … Giles and Sheffield both stole second in the first inning against Lo Duca, who has thrown out 11 of 34 basestealers. … The Braves have been successful on 20 of their 24 stolen-base attempts. Last year they were at 66 percent (76-for-115). … Atlanta is 19-3 when Rafael Furcal scores a run. He scored twice. … Nomo has pitched at least seven innings in eight of his nine starts. … The Braves are 18-1 when they scorefirst.