Teixeira comes up big in win
Slugger's two-run single drives rally in fifth against Dodgers
ATLANTA -- Through the first month of the season, Braves manager Bobby Cox has consistently talked about how Mark Teixeira and Mark Kotsay have been hitting the ball in hard luck.
On Saturday afternoon, their luck changed.
Teixeira and Kotsay each had two hits and both came through big in a four-run fifth-inning that lifted Atlanta to a 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Braves have taken the first two games of the weekend series and are on a season-best three-game winning streak, while the Dodgers have dropped eight of their last 11 games.
"The hitting came through timely today, and finally a couple of balls are starting to fall for Kotsay and Teixeira," said Cox. "Instead of lining out right at people, they're stating to drop in."
On a day when Chipper Jones cooled off -- at least temporarily, although he did extend his hitting streak to 11 games -- Mark and Mark picked him up.
Teixeira, who came into Saturday's game hitting .203, smacked a 3-1 pitch from Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley (0-3) into left field, plating Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar, who extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a single earlier in the inning. The hit gave the Braves a 2-1 lead.
"I just figured there was going to be someone there to catch it," kidded Teixeira of his one-out line drive that fell in front of charging left fielder Andre Ethier. "But it was good to get that hit and for the team to roll that inning. We really only had one inning where we could score because their pitching did a great job."
After Jeff Francoeur's RBI groundout, Kotsay grounded a single through the right side, his second single in as many innings, that scored the fourth run of the inning. Right fielder Matt Kemp's strong throw home cut down Brian McCann at home plate, keeping the game at 4-1.
"I found a couple of holes today," said Kotsay, who had his second multi-hit game in his last three and is hitting .455 (5-for-11) over that stretch. "If you take the approach, and you just try and be consistent and take good at-bats then the results will be there eventually."
Former Brave Andruw Jones had given the Dodgers the lead with a long home run in the second inning off Braves starter and winner Chuck James (1-1). The blast, Jones' first of the year, came on a 3-2 fastball and traveled an estimated 417 feet.
Jones' homer would be the only run the Dodgers would manage off James, who was called up from Triple-A Richmond on Friday night after Tom Glavine was scratched and put on the disabled list. He allowed only four hits, walking one and striking out two.
The effort was a far cry from James' previous start in Colorado on April 9, when he lasted only three innings and surrendered six runs.
"His control was much better," said Cox. "But you know, pitching in Colorado the very first time and it was freezing cold, it was hard to hold the ball. But he was a lot better. He kept the ball in the strike zone, kept them off-balance enough with the changeup."
James credited Richmond Braves pitching coach Guy Hansen for helping fix his mechanics and, in the process, rediscover his confidence.
"We went through a few drills to kind of get me back behind the baseball," said James, who only had one start in Richmond to try out what he'd learned. "I felt like I had good leverage on my balls and that I could hit spots again. I cut a few balls but for the most part I'm very happy with it. I definitely feel like I'm on the right track to getting back."
James allowed the leadoff man to reach in four of his five innings, but got a 5-4-3 double play to get out of trouble in the third inning and retired the middle of the order on routine fly balls to strand a runner at third in the fourth.
James threw 69 pitches, 41 of them for strikes, but left after five innings because of tightness in his left forearm, which he brushed off as nothing serious afterward.
Billingsley, who got only one run of support in his previous start, took the loss despite matching his career high with nine strikeouts -- the fourth time in his career he recorded that many K's. Unfortunately for him, he also walked a season-high five batters, three of them coming in the decisive fifth inning.
"I knew we weren't going to be able to score a lot of runs -- Billingsley was pitching great," said Teixeira, who has hit in seven of his last eight games. "So for me to get that hit, to be able to come through with two runs and for us to tack on two more, I knew we had a good chance to win the game after that."
The bullpen turned a good chance into a sure thing. The trio of Jorge Campillo, who has not allowed a run in three appearances covering seven innings, Blaine Boyer and Manny Acosta allowed a total of three hits and four total baserunners over the final four innings to seal the deal.
Acosta pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his first career save.
Braves pitching has allowed only two runs over the last 27 innings and the bullpen has stopped the Dodgers cold, allowing one run and six hits in 8 1/3 innings in the series.
"Pitching is a catalyst to winning," said Teixeira. "For us to have these kind of outings the last three days, you're going to win a lot of games when you don't give up many runs."
Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.