LOS ANGELES -- Through Jason Heyward's platinum sombrero and the lurch that Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw left most other Braves hitters in, they were still in it.Yunel Escobar's third hit on Friday night was a game-tying two-run double in the seventh inning. The Braves' nine-game winning streak, then, was very much alive at Dodger Stadium. Half an inning later, reliever Eric O'Flaherty gave the lead right back on his first pitch, a James Loney RBI single that proved to be the game-winner in a 5-4 Braves loss. "We know eventually we're going to lose, but we all watched Philly win today, and they gained a game over us," said Escobar, who went 3-for-4 with three RBIs. "We try to win as many as we can." The Phillies won, 3-2, over the Padres and pulled to within two games of the Braves for the National League East lead. Glaus was 0-for-3, while Martin Prado was 1-for-5, bringing his hitting streak to nine games. How good was Kershaw on Friday? Heyward's line could tell you. Kershaw allowed three runs in 6 2/3 innings with eight strikeouts, half of which belonged to the rookie right fielder. The golden sombrero already notched, Heyward batted again in the ninth inning against Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton, with two out and none on. On a 1-2 fastball that clocked 97 mph, Heyward struck out for a fifth time. If Heyward had ever struck out five times in a single game, at any level, he couldn't remember it. "Facing Kershaw for the first time, out of the stretch he did more of a slide step and a quick drop, so you don't have a way to see the ball," Heyward said. "He pitched well tonight to our whole lineup." "I have a lot of confidence against lefties," Kershaw said. "I fell behind him pretty much each at-bat, but got breaking balls over for strikes and after that got him chasing fastballs up." Four of Heyward's strikeouts were swinging, one looking. It's the 55th time a player has struck out five times in a nine-inning game, and Alex Rios is the only player to have the distinction of doing so twice. Manager Bobby Cox's reaction to Heyward's night was simple, if not dismissive: "Whatever." Braves starter Kenshin Kawakami seemed destined for his eighth straight loss to open the season after the first two innings, which put him in the company of Rosy Ryan. Ryan was the last in club history to lose eight out of the gate when he did so for the 1925 Boston Braves. Kawakami, who had thrown three consecutive quality starts entering Friday, let up two runs on two hits in each of the first two innings for a 4-0 hole.
The Braves' offense cut the deficit in half in the top of the third, with one run on an Escobar single that dropped in just shy of the foul line in right field, the other on Melky Cabrera's broken-bat grounder to the left side. Dodgers third baseman Jamey Carroll was given an error on the play, which was tough to make with a bat shard flying toward him.From there, Kawakami and Kershaw butted heads until the seventh. "After the first two innings, he was lights out," Cox said. "I thought he pitched really well after the first two. In the first two, the ball kept running down the middle of the plate, and he couldn't control it where he wanted to on the corners. After that, he was lights out, pitched a gritty tough game." Kershaw let up a one-out single to Omar Infante and a two-out walk to Troy Glaus in the seventh, ending his night at 110 pitches. On came Hong-Chih Kuo, who had allowed just five hits all season -- none to a left-hander -- and hadn't allowed a run in 13 1/3 innings. His ERA was 1.32. Escobar, though, is a right-handed hitter, and he lined a ball into left that Manny Ramirez drudged after for a two-run double that tied the game at 4. "I know he's got great stuff," Escobar said. "I just wanted to make contact off of him." Kawakami's 110th pitch in the seventh was his last, too, as he completed an intentional one-out walk to Ramirez. Andre Ethier stood on second after a ground-rule double one at-bat previous. O'Flaherty had struck out Ethier with two on in the eighth inning of Thursday night's win, but he came in Friday and gave up a first-pitch RBI single to center for Loney. The Braves went down in order in the eighth and ninth. "You want to come out and win every game you can," Heyward said. "They jumped out to an early lead, and they did a great job of answering back."
Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.