Dodgers 8, Braves 4

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ATLANTA (AP)—Robin Ventura hit an inside-the-park homer. Russ Ortiz was the losing pitcher. Quite an unusual day at Turner Field.

The slow-running Ventura chugged around the bases for the first inside-the-parker of his career and Ortiz lost for the first time since June 13 as the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Atlanta Braves 8-4 Sunday.

“Usually,” quipped Ventura, “someone has to go on the DL for me to get even a triple.”

Adrian Beltre hit a three-run homer for the Dodgers, who snapped a five-game losing streak and got back to .500.

Los Angeles was at a clear disadvantage in the pitching matchup: Ortiz, who had won eight straight starts, vs. Scott Mullen, a journeyman left-hander called up from the minors to make his first major league start.

But the Dodgers scored four unearned runs in the first off Ortiz (15-5), and their bullpen held the high-scoring Braves to only one run over the final six innings after Mullen struggled with his control.

Ortiz came out after five innings, having thrown a staggering 118 pitches. He walked only two but was constantly behind in the count.

“I just couldn’t get ahead and stay ahead,” he said. “It’s too rough when you pitch like that. The guys in the infield and outfield are standing around for so long, it doesn’t help anybody. It just wasn’t a quality pitched ballgame.”

Ventura, acquired from the New York Yankees on Thursday, picked up his first homer for the Dodgers in the seventh—just not in the way anyone would have expected.

On a drive to the left-center gap, Darren Bragg jumped against the wall attempting a backhanded catch. The ball popped loose as he turned his glove and crashed into the padding. Sitting on the ground, Bragg snagged the ball with his bare hand before it struck the ground, holding it for the umpires to see.

But umpire Jeff Kellogg, running out from his position at second base, ruled that the ball had struck the wall. Bragg tried to flip the ball to left fielder Chipper Jones, but it sailed over his head. Ventura never stopped running, sliding across home before the Braves could retrieve the ball and throw home.

“That was a fall, not a slide,” Ventura said with a smile.

The Braves insisted that Bragg caught the ball. Manager Bobby Cox protested, but the umpires upheld the call after a brief conference near second base.

“The ball hit his glove,” home plate umpire Paul Emmel said. “He trapped it against the wall, then he came down with it. Once that ball touches the wall, it’s in play.”

Cox called it “one of the greatest catches I’ve ever seen, but he’s not going to get credit for it. That’s too bad.”

Ortiz should have gotten out of the first without a run scoring. After a leadoff single, Jolbert Cabrera hit a grounder to Rafael Furcal for an apparent double play. Instead, second baseman Marcus Giles dropped the throw for an error, leaving both runners aboard. Shawn Green followed with an RBI single.

Ventura and Jeromy Burnitz both struck out, but Ortiz couldn’t limit the damage. The right-hander left a 1-1 fastball in Beltre’s eyes, and the third baseman hit it deep into the left-field stands for his 10th homer in a disappointing season.

“After that, with our bullpen, I thought the game was over,” he said.

Beltre came into the game hitting just .222, prompting the Dodgers to trade for Ventura in an attempt to boost their anemic offense. Both had a chance to contribute when Ventura made his first start at first base since Sept. 2, 1996.

Mullen, called up before the game to make a one-time start in place of injured Kazuhisa Ishii, went to the mound with a 4-0 lead but couldn’t hang around long enough to get the win. In the first, the left-hander walked four and hit a batter as the Braves scored three times with only one hit.

Mullen didn’t allow a run in the next two innings, but manager Jim Tracy yanked him anyway. Guillermo Mota (3-2), Tom Martin, Paul Shuey, Paul Quantrill and Eric Gagne shut down the Braves the rest of the way.

“I thought I was just starting to get into the groove,” said Mullen, who will return to Triple-A Las Vegas.

The lone slip-up by the bullpen came in the seventh, when Gary Sheffield hit his 27th homer off Martin. By then, the Dodgers had built an 8-3 lead onrun-scoring hits by Burnitz, Dave Roberts and Cabrera.


Los Angeles had its high-scoring output since an 8-5 victory at St. Louis on July 18. The Dodgers had managed only 12 runs in their previous nine games. … Paul Lo Duca also hit an inside-the-park homer for the Dodgers this season. … The Braves have given up three inside-the-park homers this season. Florida’s Derrek Lee and San Diego’s Sean Burroughs had the others. … Bragg was filling in for CF Andruw Jones, who missed his second straight game with astrained right oblique.

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