LOS ANGELES -- After Manny Ramirez was intentionally walked ahead of him, James Loney delivered a tiebreaking RBI single in the seventh inning that lifted the Dodgers to a 5-4 win on Friday night and pulled them to within one-half game of first place in the National League West while snapping the Braves' win streak at nine. The Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw let a four-run lead get away before Loney drove home Andre Ethier, who had doubled. Braves manager Bobby Cox had Ramirez walked intentionally, even though the Dodgers left fielder is hitting 40 points below his career average and again was the topic of manager Joe Torre's pregame media briefing because of the way he seems to have changed, both on the field and off. Cox then relieved starter Kenshin Kawakami (0-8) with left-handed reliever Eric O'Flaherty, and Loney rifled his first pitch up the middle.
"A lot of times, it's great strategy -- bring the lefty in to get a double play, it's Manny Ramirez, there's a bunch of factors," said Loney. "It's not added motivation for me. I go up every time motivated." Loney came into the game hitting .299 against right-handed pitching and .350 against lefties. "I don't mind them bringing in a left-hander against him," said Torre. "When he struggles with the bat, left-handers sort of help him. He just sort of throws himself into the at-bat. Those situations never scare him." The Dodgers had given Kershaw a two-run lead to work with in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Ethier and an RBI double by Ronnie Belliard, who was playing second base for the slumping Blake DeWitt (1-for-18). Jamey Carroll -- who had two hits and is 9-for-16 over his past four games -- led off the second for the Dodgers with a double and was out at third on Kershaw's attempted sacrifice bunt. But the Dodgers scored anyway when Rafael Furcal tripled home Kershaw and Furcal scored on Matt Kemp's sacrifice fly for a 4-0 lead. Wheeling home all the way from first might have taken something out of Kershaw, because the next two batters he faced reached base. Atlanta eventually scored with two outs in the frame on Yunel Escobar's bloop single down the right-field line and on an error on a Melky Cabrera broken-bat grounder by Carroll, who started for injured third baseman Casey Blake. Kershaw was removed with two outs and two on in the seventh after walking Troy Glaus. "It was frustrating," Kershaw said. "I had Glaus 0-2, I've got to finish him. It's my fault. I shouldn't walk him." Hong-Chih Kuo, who had stranded five of eight inherited runners, relieved to face Escobar, who tied the game with a two-run double. Kershaw was charged with four runs (three earned) in 6 2/3 innings, walking five with eight strikeouts (four of them Jason Heyward, who struck out a fifth time to end the game). "We got away with stuff tonight," said Torre. Kuo was credited with the win (along with a blown save) and Jonathan Broxton collected his 14th save. The game might have been saved, however, in the sixth inning by Dodgers catcher Russell Martin and shortstop Furcal. Cabrera led off with a walk and former Dodgers catcher David Ross bunted for a single. As Nate McLouth missed with a bunt attempt, Furcal snuck behind Cabrera and Martin's strong throw picked him off. Instead of first and second and no outs, it was one on and one out and Kershaw escaped. "Definitely a game-changer," said Kershaw. "Getting that first out was humongous. An awesome play by Russell that really picked me up." Technically, it went in the books as a quality start for Kershaw, but he didn't sound that way. "It was good to win. I wasn't great, I wasn't terrible," he said. "I was just average. I walked too many guys. But it's good to get the win, good to get them off the win streak and to beat a good team. It's good for us to judge ourselves against a first-place team." While Kershaw was warming up for the top of the seventh, Dodgers Hall of Fame announcer Vin Scully delivered a brief but moving tribute on the DiamondVision message board to John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach who died at age 99 around game time. Torre said he visited Wooden at the hospital on Wednesday. "It felt good, although that's not the right word, to get a chance to see him and a chance to say goodbye," said Torre. "We sort of hit it off. John has been a very special person to me."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.