It’s true, the Dodgers can invent new ways to lose. Painful, rip-out-the-heart ways. Ways to make the life of their 2010 season grow all the more dimmer.
It happened again, somehow, incredibly, on Monday night in Atlanta when the Dodgers were seemingly on their way to victory, only for everything to come crashing down, their old nightmare replaced by their new nightmare.
The Dodgers took a two-run lead into the ninth, and then the Braves scored three times and escaped with a 4-3 victory.
Hong-Chih Kuo was unable to pull off a two-inning save, loading the bases with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning after pitching a 1-2-3 eighth.
Manager Joe Torre then called on Octavio Dotel to finish it off. He did, too, just not the way Torre had hoped.
Dotel walked David Ross to force in one run and then gave up a bouncing two-run single to Melky Cabrera as the Braves celebrated their come-from-behind win and the Dodgers looked on once again in disbelief.
The offensively challenged Dodgers scored their three runs without the benefit of a single hit with runners in scoring position. That left them 0 for 21 in that department in this four-game series.
The Dodgers scored twice in the eighth off Jonny Venters to take the lead, thanks to some defensive struggles by third baseman Brooks Conrad.
Pinch-hitter Reed Johnson opened the inning by drilling a one-hopper that took a wicked bounce off Conrad. Originally ruled an error, it was later changed to a hit.
Scott Podsednik drew a walk before Ryan Theriot hit a little bouncer toward Conrad, who charged and threw on the run. The throw sailed past Troy Glaus at first base for an error as Johnson scored.
Right fielder Jason Heyward had the wet ball ricochet off him in the corner, and Podsednik, who had stopped at third, came home. Heyward was not charged with an error, but could have been.
The Dodgers had opened the scoring with a run off Tommy Hanson in the first on a Theriot infield single and Andre Ethier double.
They handed the 1-0 lead to starter Chad Billingsley, who sported a 1.32 earned-run average in his last five starts, and told him to make it work. In a downpour, he acted like it was no problem. The guy must love rain.
He shut out the Braves for five innings, at which point it looked like the game might be called for rain and the Dodgers would escape with a 1-0 victory.
Instead, they spread some more dry dirt around the infield and sent the teams back out for more.
Which worked out for the Braves. Omar Infante led off the bottom of the sixth with his first triple of the season and Heyward lined a shot to right that almost screamed home run.
Only it lost steam in the rain and then Ethier made an outstanding running, leaping catch at the wall.
Infante tagged to tie the score, but Ethier took away an extra-base hit from Heyward. Ethier and the rain, anyway.
Billingsley went seven strong innings for the Dodgers. He gave up his one run on five hits and a walk, striking out eight.
The way things are going for the Dodgers, mired in fourth place in the NL West right now, seven strong is not going to be enough.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Photo: Dodgers second baseman Ryan Theriot is tagged out by Braves catcher Brian McCann in the eighth inning when trying to score on a fly ball by James Loney. Credit: Curtis Compton / McClatchy-Tribune.