Stephen Fife threw two bad pitches on an otherwise impressive night Saturday.
Unfortunately for the Dodgers, those two pitches -- a hanging curve to Braves second baseman Dan Uggla to lead off the fifth inning and a meaty fastball to pitcher Kris Medlen two batters later -- cost them the game.
"I started trying to do too much in terms of effort level," Fife said. "Things went side to side instead of up and down."
In the deepest performance of his young career in the majors, Fife (1-1) was the tough-luck loser as the Dodgers fell to the Braves, 2-1. The 25-year-old right-hander threw 6-2/3 solid innings in his fourth start this season, giving up two runs on nine hits while striking out a season-high seven batters. Medlen (3-6) outdueled him, pitching 6-2/3 scoreless frames and, more importantly, smacking the eventual game-winning homer into the right-field stands.
Fife is two starts into his second stint with the Dodgers this season. After a rocky debut against the Baltimore Orioles in April, he's pitched 12 innings in two June starts, giving up only three earned runs.
"I thought he was sharp today with his breaking ball," Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said. "His changeup worked really good. He gives up the two solos, but it didn't seem to make a difference [afterward]."
Fife ran into trouble in the first inning as Andrelton Simmons hit a leadoff double left of center fielder Andre Ethier, who took a bad angle on the ball, and Jason Heyward walked.
But after Justin Upton dropped a sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third, Fife needed just seven pitches to strike out Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann.
He tacked on two more strikeouts in the second inning, striking out Uggla and B.J. Upton with fastballs on the outside corner.
"Division leaders? They're just another major league team to throw to," Fife said. "I definitely did a great job mixing. Looking back I probably could've done a better job going into hitters. We got by with what we did tonight and I feel pretty good about it."
Dodgers catcher Tim Federowicz threw out Andrelton Simmons on a steal attempt in the third inning to erase the Braves' best scoring opportunity before the fifth. That's when Fife slipped up.
Uggla crushed the 0-2 curveball over the wall in left-center field, and after B.J. Upton struck out swinging, the switch-hitting Medlen lifted his first career longball. Fife said the 89-mph four-seamer was supposed to stay away, but it missed by about six inches.
"A hanging breaking ball to Dan Uggla, I can live with that one," Fife said. "A mislocated fastball to a pitcher, probably one I'd like to have back."
Yasiel Puig threw a laser from right field to third base to erase Simmons and end the fifth inning before Fife worked through baserunners in the sixth and seventh.
"[Puig] kind of reminds you of that Ichiro- or Jeff Francouer-type arm," Fife said. "You kind of watch it happen and go, 'Wow.' "