ATLANTA (AP) -- The Atlanta Braves are a first-place team. It's
not so obvious from the look of their bullpen.
Shaky closer Chris Reitsma blew another save -- his third in the
last eight games -- as the Los Angeles Dodgers rallied for a
three-run ninth to beat the Braves 6-4 Tuesday night.Olmedo Saenz drove in two runs with a pinch-hit single off
Reitsma, who didn't get an out. Oscar Robles added an RBI single
off John Foster, that run also charged to Reitsma."I just wasn't good tonight," said Reitsma, whose ERA rose
from 3.56 to 4.04. "I didn't have any command of my change-up and
breaking ball. It kind of snowballed on me."With the Dodgers down 4-3, Jason Werth hit Reitsma's first pitch
off the wall for a double, and moved to third when Hee-Seop Choi
slapped a single to left. Ricky Ledee walked to load the bases.Saenz, who has 53 starts this season, came up as a pinch-hitter
-- a good choice considering his .368 average with runners in
scoring position. He came through with a single to left, bringing
home the tying and go-ahead runs."If I got something in the strike zone, I wanted to be
aggressive and hit it hard," Saenz said. "I wasn't really trying
to do anything else."Reitsma (3-4) has blown seven of 22 save chances, exposing
perhaps the biggest weakness for the NL-East leading Braves. Dan
Kolb started the season as the closer but lost the job to Reitsma,
who now appears to be trying to give it back."It stings a little bit," said Chipper Jones, one of three
Atlanta players who hit solo homers. "You can't keep losing games
like this down the stretch. The other teams in our division are
playing some pretty good baseball."For the second straight time, Reitsma's woes in the ninth cost
John Smoltz his 13th win."I love John to death," Reitsma said. "I hate it when this
happens more than anybody in the world."Smoltz was the Braves' closer the last three seasons, so he
knows how difficult it is to get those last three outs."It's a role with a huge magnifying glass," Smoltz said.
"We're fine. It'll turn."Giovanni Carrara (7-4) got the win and Duaner Sanchez worked a
perfect ninth for his first career save.Jones, Brian McCann and Rafael Furcal homered off Derek Lowe in
the first two innings. The Dodgers starter didn't give up anything
else until the seventh."It was disconcerting, since I'm a ground-ball pitcher," Lowe
said. "At least they were solos."With the score tied at 3, Braves pinch-hitter Kelly Johnson
started the seventh with grounder off the glove of second baseman
Jeff Kent, who managed to flip the ball to first just as runner was
arriving.Umpire Larry Poncino called safe and the Dodgers protested,
still upset over a similar play the previous inning that didn't go
their way. Lowe argued briefly before manager Jim Tracy turned up
the heat, getting ejected by Poncino.Johnson moved up on a sacrifice bunt and scored an unearned run
on Marcus Giles' single to right, just beating Werth's strong throw
to the plate.Smoltz gave up seven hits and two earned runs in seven innings.
He also got a break in the sixth.Werth singled with one out, stole second and took third on a
passed ball. Choi hit a grounder that ricocheted off the glove of
first baseman Adam LaRoche, but Giles grabbed it moving over from
second and flipped to Smoltz covering.Choi waved his arms as he crossed the bag, indicating he was
safe, but Poncino called out to end the inning and deny the Dodgers
a run. Television replays showed Choi's foot clearly beat the ball."Both plays were close," Tracy said. "It was a run we didn't
get and a run they did get. But you don't point fingers."Kent had an RBI single in the third and wound up scoring an
unearned run on Jeff Francoeur's errant throw from right field."You have to give our guys credit coming back like that," said
Lowe, allowed six hits and three earned runs in seven innings. "We
need a stretch like this to get us back in the running."The Dodgers are only five games behind San Diego in the NL West,
despite being 10 games under .500."It's starting to feel like last year," said Werth, referring
to the Dodgers' run to the NL West championship. "Things are
starting to look better for us."
Francoeur stole the first base of his young career. ...
Smoltz had six Ks to move past Tim Keefe for 25th on the career
strikeout list with 2,534. Jerry Koosman is next on the list at
2,556. ... Kyle Farnsworth pitched a scoreless eighth for Atlanta
in his first appearance since serving a five-game suspension. ...
The Dodgers are 5-55 when trailing after the eighth inning.