Dodgers can't close it out against Braves

Chad Billingsley had another start cut short, this time with something more serious than a cramp.

Manny Ramirez continued to slump at the plate, striking out twice in three hitless at-bats.

The Dodgers used six relievers, doing so on a night when they reduced the number of pitchers on their overworked staff from 13 to 12.

Among the pitchers used in the 9-5, 12-inning loss to the Atlanta Braves at Dodger Stadium on Friday night was Scott Elbert, who was named the starter for the series finale Sunday. Elbert imploded in a four-run 12th inning for the Braves that ended a night in which added elements of concern were introduced to the Dodgers' long-term prospects.

George Sherrill had preserved a 5-4 advantage for 1 2/3 innings, but closer Jonathan Broxton was charged with his fourth blown save of the season when he gave up a ninth-inning single to Garret Anderson that drove in Nate McLouth and sent the game into extra innings.

Everything was dandy in Dodgertown until the bottom of the sixth -- that was when Billingsley strained his left hamstring as he ran to first base on a single with the Dodgers up, 5-2.

Until then, he was outdueling Braves starter Jair Jurrjens for the second time in five days because of one primary reason: Billingsley didn't fold when faced with an obstacle he didn't create. Jurrjens did.

With the score tied, 1-1, heading into the third inning, Billingsley was victimized by one of the more odd mistakes of the season.

Billingsley gave up a leadoff walk to Jurrjens in the third inning, which was followed by a bunt by McLouth. Drawn in to field the ball, first baseman James Loney had to dive to have any chance at applying a tag on McLouth -- and missed.

From the seat of his pants, Loney tossed the ball to Orlando Hudson, who was standing near first base but was looking elsewhere. The ball bounced into shallow right field, allowing Jurrjens to advance to third.

Billingsley gestured toward Loney, as if to ask, "What was that?"

But the Dodgers' ace maintained his composure.

Billingsley forced Martin Prado to ground into a double play that scored Jurrjens but minimized the damage.

The Dodgers tied it in the fourth inning when a double play ball by Hudson scored Matt Kemp.

Jurrjens faced more adversity an inning later and it proved too much for the 23-year-old.

Rafael Furcal hit a leadoff single, which was followed by a walk by Andre Ethier.

Plate umpire Eric Cooper appeared to initially signal that the final pitch of Ethier's at-bat was a strike, only to reverse course and award Ethier first base.

The decision was costly for the Braves, as Furcal tried to steal second on that pitch and was called out. Instead of having Ethier at the plate with a full count and the bases empty, the Dodgers had men on first and second with no out.

Braves Manager Bobby Cox, who argued the call, was ejected.

Two batters later, Jurrjens served up a three-run home run to Casey Blake that put the Dodgers ahead, 5-2.

For Blake, the blast over the left-field wall ended a homerless streak that spanned 101 at-bats. The home run was his 13th of the season.

Jurrjens' night was over and he also was ejected as he left the field.

The Braves pulled to within 5-4 in the seventh on Kelly Johnson's two-run homer off Hong-Chih Kuo.


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