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By Jon Weisman
Yasiel Puig singled, doubled and tripled in his first three at-bats tonight, setting up Dodger fans, who have already seen two no-hitters this year, for a new piece of history.
Instead, the happy crowd settled for Vin Scully’s 2015 return, the first four-game winning streak of the Dodgers’ season and an expanded lead in the National League West.
In fact, even as Puig went 4 for 5 for the night, Matt Kemp stole a big clap of thunder, sandwiching a single between a pair of two-run home runs as the Dodgers rallied from deficits of 1-0 and 4-2 to defeat the Braves, 8-4, in their first Dodger Stadium matchup since the finale of the 2013 National League Division Series.
With San Francisco losing its sixth game in a row tonight, Los Angeles moved three games ahead in the NL West — the Dodgers’ biggest lead of 2014. Los Angeles also has the best record in the NL by 1 1/2 games.
An unsung hero for the Dodgers tonight was Jamey Wright, who relieved starter Josh Beckett after the latter was knocked out with one out in the fifth inning by Andrelton Simmons’ RBI double that put the Dodgers down by two runs. Wright retired all five batters he faced, and the Dodgers tied the game in the bottom of the fifth when Puig tripled, Adrian Gonzalez doubled and Carl Crawford singled.
Puig’s triple raised his July OPS at that moment to exactly 1.000: .408 on-base percentage, .592 slugging.
In the bottom of the seventh, after Brandon League induced his 11th double-play grounder of the season — high among full-time NL relievers — Puig beat out a grounder behind third in his first attempt to complete his cycle. Gonzalez singled him to third (Puig racing around the bases and sliding violently into the bag while being hit in the back of the neck by the throw). Crawford’s slow infield grounder brought home the go-ahead run, and Kemp’s towering homer to center field provided the insurance.
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Coming in to face the tying run with two on and two out in the top of the eighth, Kenley Jansen got Justin Upton to fly to right, then completed his second four-out save of the season and sixth of his career. Jansen retired the first two Braves in the ninth, then allowed a single and a walk, then retired Phil Gosselin on a fly to Puig.
Before it was over, Puig struck out in his final at-bat, contenting himself with his second four-hit game in his past four, but another RBI double from Gonzalez tacked on the Dodgers’ eighth run in the bottom of the eighth. Juan Uribe also had two doubles, part of the Dodgers’ season-high nine extra-base hits.