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Braves complete sweep as Dodgers bullpen collapses

The SportsXchange

ATLANTA -- In last place in the National League West, the Los Angeles Dodgers have plenty of problems, and the bullpen is near the top of the list.

The Dodgers' relief corps couldn't hold a lead for the third straight game, and Matt Magill lost a chance for his first major league victory as the Atlanta Braves completed a series sweep Sunday.

The Braves scored four times in the eighth inning and defeated the Dodgers 5-2 in a game delayed 1 hour, 42 minutes at the start because of rain and then interrupted for 33 minutes in the bottom of the sixth inning.

It was raining again in the eighth when the Braves took the lead. Kenley Jansen and Brandon League -- the fifth and sixth Dodgers pitchers -- couldn't get the job done and weren't helped by some sloppy fielding.

The Dodgers were charged with three errors in the game, and the only earned runs scored by the Braves were the final two in the decisive rally. However, the focus remained on the bullpen's continued failings. Los Angeles relief pitchers have a composite 4.57 ERA that ranks 28th among the 30 major league teams.

"Obviously, we've got to get that thing in order," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "We've just got to get better. ... We've been in a little bit of disorder out there."

Jansen (1-3) was replaced after giving up a single and walk. On the first batter League faced, third baseman Juan Uribe bobbled a bunt by Andrelton Simmons to load the bases with no outs.

Pinch hitter Brandon Laird tied the game with a single, and Ramiro Pena gave the Braves the lead with a sacrifice fly. Chris Johnson followed with a RBI single, and Jordan Schafer brought in the final run with a squeeze bunt.

Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth and recorded his 14th save. The Braves bullpen didn't allow a hit over the final three innings and yielded just one baserunner, that on a ninth-inning walk. The Dodgers had just three hits in the game.

"We hung in there and then put up a crooked number in the eighth," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "When you have a comeback like that, it's usually because you had some good pitching along the way."

The sweep was the Braves' fourth of the season, although their first since mid-April, and gave them a 25-18 record -- best in the National League East. The Dodges (17-25) lost for the 12th time in 16 games.

Magill, making his fourth major league start, allowed four hits and an unearned run, striking out eight and walking three before leaving after giving up a leadoff single in the sixth inning.

"I'm getting more comfortable every time I go out there," Magill said. "It's just a bummer that we lost. It's real tough for us."

The Dodgers took an early lead off Mike Minor, and Magill didn't allow a Braves runner to reach second base in the first four innings.

Carl Crawford opened the game with a double on a liner that eluded Braves left fielder Justin Upton, and Adrian Gonzalez drove him in with a two-out single.

The Dodgers made it 2-0 in the third inning after Minor issued a leadoff walk to Crawford. Matt Kemp doubled, and Gonzalez scored Crawford with a sacrifice fly.

The Braves cut into the lead with an unearned run in the fifth as Minor helped himself with a two-out single, and Schafer delivered an RBI single. The inning opened with Dodgers shortstop Nick Punto committing a throwing error on a tough play.

Minor, who won his previous two starts while giving up just two runs in 13 2/3 innings, allowed three hits and two runs in six innings Sunday, striking out nine and walking two.

Luis Avilan (2-0) struck out one in a perfect top of the eighth inning and got the victory when the Braves rallied in the bottom of the inning.

The Braves have played just 17 home games -- the fewest in the majors -- but they are 12-5 at Turner Field.

"It's big to come home and get a sweep," Johnson said. "We've been on the road a lot and lost some games we thought we should have won."

NOTES: Dodgers 2B Mark Ellis, who had been out since April 26 with a right quad strain, was activated after two rehab games with Double-A Chattanooga and immediately returned to the second spot of the batting order. He went 0-for-4. He was hitting .342 in 20 games when injured. ... To make room for Ellis, the Dodgers optioned C Tim Federowicz back to Triple-A Albuquerque. ... The Dodgers begin a three-game series in Milwaukee on Monday, with LHP Clayton Kershaw (4-2, 1.40 ERA) starting the opener. ... The Braves begin a three-game interleague series at home with Minnesota on Monday. ... Braves RHP Brandon Beachy's first rehab start with Triple-A Gwinnett was rained out Sunday, and he threw a three-inning simulated game instead. He hopes to return from Tommy John elbow surgery in the second half of June.

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