By JILL PAINTER LOPEZ, Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Atlanta Braves expected big contributions from Freddie Freeman and Tyler Flowers this season.
Charlie Culberson has been a little more of a surprise, although the Los Angeles Dodgers know all about his timely hitting.
Freeman and Culberson each had three hits, Flowers drove in three runs and the upstart Braves beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-3 on Saturday night.
Both of Culberson’s home runs with the Braves this year have been pinch-hit walk-off shots. He also had a memorable game-ending homer as Los Angeles clinched the NL West in 2016 in Vin Scully’s final broadcast at Dodger Stadium.
Culberson, also a Dodger last year, was presented with his NL Championship Series ring before the game, then went out and helped beat his old teammates and push Atlanta to 37-27. Baseball operations leaders Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi and Stan Kasten came over to congratulate Culberson, as did manager Dave Roberts.
“That was a neat feeling,” Culberson said.
Flowers had a two-run double in the third and an RBI single in the fifth that helped put Atlanta ahead 4-1 and chase starter Alex Wood. The Braves racked up 14 hits total.
Atlanta starter Anibal Sanchez (2-0) allowed two runs on three hits in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out five and walked two. Arodys Vizcaino pitched a scoreless ninth for his 11th save.
“I’m not going to say that I’m doing some special right now that I didn’t do the last few years,” Sanchez said. “I think I did the same but I think confidence is better right now. The whole location, game plan, I think everything is coming out good.”
Max Muncy hit a solo home run to right field in the first inning for the Dodgers. It was Muncy’s 11th home run and second in two games. He also walked three times to raise his OPS to a team-leading .978.
“It’s big-time. You never know what can happen and you get on base any way you can,” Muncy said. “Passed ball and you’re in scoring position or ball in the gap and you’re scoring. Anything can happen when you get a guy on base, and that’s kind of the whole point of the game.”
Yasiel Puig, who was pinch hit for a day earlier for what Roberts called “in-house reasons,” scored on a wild pitch to pull the Dodgers within 5-3 in the seventh.
In the lineup for the second consecutive day against his former team, Culberson hit a run-scoring single to right to tie the game at 1.
Wood (1-5) pitched better than his previous start in which he was pulled after allowing six runs in two innings at Colorado.
Wood allowed nine hits and four runs — two earned — in 4 2/3 innings Saturday. He struck out six and walked none but had to work out of jams much of his outing after putting so many runners on base.
“It’s been a tough three starts for me, probably the toughest of my career,” Wood said. “It’s one of those things where you’re just grinding really hard. You’ve got to think one of these next few it will start to turn. There’s definitely some frustration for sure.”
Roberts pointed to the cramp and hamstring and abductor issues Wood has dealt with, but Wood didn’t blame any physical issues on his performance.
Braves: RHP Julio Teheran (right thumb bruise) played catch Saturday. … RHP Mike Soroka (muscle strain near right shoulder) will come off the disabled list and start Wednesday against the Mets.
Dodgers: RHP Walker Buehler has bruised ribs, but scans and X-rays showed no further damage after the rookie was lifted from a start with pain in his side Friday. Buehler said Saturday he is uncertain how much time he’ll miss or if he’ll need to go on the disabled list. … LHP Rich Hill (blister) threw a four-inning sim game Saturday and Roberts said he threw the ball well. He threw 60 pitches without the blister covered. … Dennis Santana (right rotator cuff strain) was transferred from the 10-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list … INF Justin Turner (soreness left wrist) was not in the lineup for the fourth time in the last five games but is expected to be back Sunday. … RHP Kenta Maeda (right hip strain) is expected to throw a bullpen Sunday and if that goes well, the team can put him back in the rotation.
Braves: LHP Sean Newcomb (7-1, 1.52) has won seven of the last eight games he’s started. In his last outing against the Padres, he allowed no runs and just three hits in six innings.
Dodgers: RHP Ross Stripling (4-1, 1.52) has been fantastic, especially over his last four starts – all wins. During that stretch, he’s given up a combined two runs in 24 2/3 innings. He’s been the most stable starter in an injury-ravaged rotation.
More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball