LOS ANGELES — For the second straight series, Matt Kemp helped the Los Angeles Dodgers win the finale with a game-ending home run. Thursday, the Atlanta Braves were the victims.
Christhian Martinez surrendered the deciding hit on an 0-2 pitch, three innings after Casey Blake tied it in the bottom of the ninth with an RBI single on an 0-2 delivery from Craig Kimbrel.
Despite taking the lead with David Ross’s two-out, two-run single on an 0-2 pitch in the ninth, the Braves lost 5-3, dropping a chance to split the four-game set.
“You can’t make mistakes 0-2, and we did today,” Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Any time you do that late in the game, you’re asking for trouble.”
Both teams were down to their final strike much earlier.
In the top of the ninth, the Braves rallied with three two-out hits and a walk against Clayton Kershaw, who had held them to just hits through the first eight.
“It was great to see our guys do that,” Gonzalez said. “In all this, you almost forget Kershaw’s performance.
“The way he was pitching, for us to scratch out a couple of runs off him when he was in line for the ‘W,’ we feel good. In fact, I told the guys that when they came in here.”
Andre Ethier, who extended his career-best hitting streak to 18 games with an infield single in the third inning, doubled with one out in the Dodgers’ 12th against Martinez (0-1). Kemp sent a drive over the fence in left-center for his fourth homer of the season.
Sunday, Kemp hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to beat St. Louis 2-1.
“Matty’s awesome,” Kershaw said. “I told him what an incredible job he did and thanks for picking me up. In that situation, where both bullpens are getting eaten up, for Matty to pull it out like that with an 0-2 count, it was an awesome at-bat.”
Matt Guerrier (1-0) pitched two innings for his first National League victory after seven seasons with Minnesota.
Chipper Jones started the Braves’ ninth-inning rally with a two-out single, and Dan Uggla followed with a single. When the throw went to third, Uggla hustled to second and made a headfirst slide to barely beat the throw.
After rookie Freddie Freeman walked on a full count, the 23-year-old Kershaw got a visit from rookie manager Don Mattingly. Kershaw was allowed to stay in and Ross singled to put Atlanta in front.
“I love the fact that Donnie had enough confidence to keep me out there,” Kershaw said. “I want the ball in that situation so that win or lose, it would be in my hands. You know, 27 outs are hard to get, so I learned my lesson today.”
In the Dodgers’ ninth, Jamey Carroll drew a leadoff walk from Kimbrel and advanced on a wild pitch. Blake’s clutch hit saddled Kimbrel with his first blown save in five chances.
“I tried to go with a fastball away, and it just wound up over the plate,” Kimbrel said. “I didn’t get the pitch where I wanted to, and he made me pay.”
Kershaw faced the minimum 12 batters through the first four innings. He retired the first 10 he faced, then gave up a single to Alex Gonzalez in the fourth before picking him off.
In the fifth, Freeman opened the scoring with a home run to right field on a 2-2 pitch.
Juan Uribe tied it with a leadoff homer in the sixth against Jair Jurrjens, his first with the Dodgers after hitting a career-high 24 last season for the World Series champion San Francisco Giants. The 11-year veteran had four RBIs in Wednesday game, after driving in only three runs in his first 60 at-bats of the season.
Blake put the Dodgers ahead 2-1 in the seventh, connecting against Scott Linebrink for his first homer of the season.
Jurrjens allowed a run and seven hits in six innings and struck out six.
“You know that when you face the ace on the other team, you need to limit the runs,” Jurrjens said. “Kershaw is a good pitcher, a strikeout pitcher and a dominant pitcher. And he showed that today until the ninth.”
Thursday marked the 121st anniversary of the first win by the Dodgers franchise, which was then known as the Brooklyn Bridegrooms. The team they beat was the Boston Beaneaters, who are now the Braves.