Braves-Dodgers Preview

The Associated Press

The Atlanta Braves weren't going to let rookie Yasiel Puig beat them again.

Instead, it was another rough relief appearance that did in the NL East leaders.

Puig and the Dodgers go for a fifth win in six games and third straight in this series Saturday night at Chavez Ravine.

Puig's eighth-inning grand slam was the big blow in Thursday's 5-0 series-opening victory, and his solo shot in the sixth inning tied Friday's contest at 1. So it was no surprise that Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez called for an intentional walk when the 22-year-old Cuban defector stepped to the plate in the eighth with two outs and a runner on third.

The Braves (37-24) escaped that jam when Mark Ellis flied out, but Atlanta's usually dependable bullpen - which has a 2.87 ERA - came up short again. One night after Cory Gearrin surrendered Puig's blast, Anthony Varvaro uncorked two wild pitches in the 10th inning of Saturday's 2-1 loss, including one that allowed Skip Schumaker to race home with the winning run.

Puig didn't get another chance to play hero - he was on-deck when Schumaker scored - but it didn't matter as the Dodgers improved to 4-1 since he was called up Monday. Los Angeles (27-33) is one-half game behind San Diego for fourth place in the NL West.

"He's amazing, I don't really now who to compare him to," Schumaker said of Puig, who is batting .421 with four homers and 10 RBIs. "... We'll ride him all the way through."

Winners of 11 of 15 at home, the Dodgers will try to send the Braves to their first three-game skid since May 10-12 with Stephen Fife (1-0, 4.50 ERA) looking to build off his first major league victory.

The right-hander, starting in place of the injured Chris Capuano (strained left triceps), allowed one run in 5 1-3 innings of Monday's 2-1 win over San Diego. Puig, in his major league debut, made Fife a winner for the first time with a throw from the right field warning track that capped off a game-ending double play.

"Seven (major league starts) and finally got one,'' Fife said.

He'll try to get another one when he faces the Braves for the first time.

Atlanta owns the majors' largest division lead at 6 1/2 games, but it's also one of two division leaders with a sub-.500 road record (16-17).

The Braves will likely need to get their offense going if they're to even up their record outside Atlanta. The club has struck out 18 times this series and is 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position.

Saturday's starter Kris Medlen (2-6, 3.14) is no stranger to the club's offensive woes. The right-hander's 3.14 run-support average is among the lowest in the majors. Medlen, though, was backed with plenty of runs in Monday's 7-2 victory over Pittsburgh.

"Any time you get run support like that, you've got to take advantage," Medlen told the Braves' official website after giving up one unearned run in seven innings.

He had the identical pitching line in a 3-1 home win over the Dodgers on May 18 to improve to 1-0 with a 1.26 ERA in two starts against Los Angeles.

The Dodgers, swept by Atlanta from May 17-19, have won eight of 12 with the Braves in town.

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