Baseball Report

By Bob Hurst

There’s more than one thing that’s steaming in “Hotlanta” these days. Atlanta’s baseball team — the Braves — finished the month of May off with a flourish, going 16-4 after starting the season 13-18.

After Monday’s win over Philadelphia, the Braves had made up 7 1/2 games in the standings to take over first place in the NL East by a half-game over the Phillies.

“There’s a lot of baseball left, but we have made a great recovery,” said Braves manager Bobby Cox. “We bent a little bit, but we never broke.”

Chipper Jones, who went into Tuesday’s game with eight hits in his last 16 at-bats with seven RBIs, homered along with Troy Glaus in Atlanta’s 9-3 win.

Rookie Jason Heyward, who leads the team with 10 home runs and 38 RBIs, had a two-run triple in Sunday’s 5-2 win over Pittsburgh, and Jones’ run-scoring single in the eighth inning snapped the tie. It was the Braves ninth win in their last at-bat.

“It keeps on giving us confidence in those late innings that somebody’s going to step up and do it,” Jones said.

The Braves have improved behind Martin Prado, hitting .323; Glaus (37 RBIs); Tim Hudson (5-1, 2.24 ERA); Tommy Hanson (5-3, 3.78 ERA, and Derek Lowe (seven wins). Atlanta, which ranks 10th in runs and 10th in ERA in the majors, averaged 6.3 runs per game during the 20-game stretch, and seven runs per game during its six-game winning streak, through Monday.

Weird and wacky: The Los Angeles Dodgers have had an interesting week.

First it was the lights going out at Wrigley Field in a game last week. Then it was a walk-off balk in Monday night’s win over Arizona.

In last Wednesday’s game in Chicago, a bank of lights behind home plate went out in the top of the fourth inning, just as the Dodgers’ Blake DeWitt was facing a 3-1 pitch from Tom Gorzelanny. The pitch was called ball four.

But as DeWitt ran down the line, the rest of the lights went dark. An electrical fire in the neighborhood caused the power outage. The game was delayed for 18 minutes before power was restored.

“I had never seen that before,” DeWitt said. “It was about mid-pitch. It’s not a real good feeling either, because I completely took my eye off the ball and the pitcher. It was pretty odd.”

Dodgers manager Joe Torre experienced something similar during his playing career.

“I got in the batter’s box one time in Montreal and as the pitcher was winding up the lights went out,” Torre said. “I was diving for cover. I had a hotel room on the 13th floor on that trip too, so it was a little frightening.”

The Dodgers went on to win Wednesday’s game 8-5.

This week, Monday’s game provided another strange situation.

Diamondbacks reliever Esmerling Vasquez balked, allowing Casey Blake to score the winning run from third base.

“I just took a couple of steps to see if I could startle him a little bit,” Blake said. “Most of the time, it doesn’t work. But sometimes it does.”

Blake threw Vasquez’s motion off by faking a run home.

“I saw what he did,” Arizona manager A.J. Hinch said. “He flinched, both his legs buckled, and he balked. It was pretty plain and simple, so I didn’t talk to anybody.”

It was the first walk-off balk in the majors since Colorado’s Taylor Buchholz did it against Atlanta in 2008.

In Monday’s game, the Dodgers tied it 4-4 on a two-run error by Diamondbacks’ second baseman Kelly Johnson. It was Johnson who was balked home by Buchholz in the game two years ago.

Ramirez in the outfield: Manny Ramirez’s reputation as a poor outfielder continued last week in Chicago. Ramirez appeared to loaf after three balls hit to the outfield in the first two games of the Dodgers series against the Cubs.

“He’s had these leg issues,” Torre said. “He’s not moving as he had before. He said it was his fault on that ball that hit the wall. He thought it was going out of the ballpark and he stopped running after it.”

Ho-hum, another perfect game: Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay threw a perfect game on Saturday, retiring all 27 batters he faced in a 1-0 win at Florida. It was the second perfect game in May, with Oakland’s Dallas Braden doing it on May 9 against Tampa Bay.

It was the 20th perfect game in major league history. Mark Buehrle pitched one for the Chicago White Sox against Tampa Bay last season, making it three such gems in less than a year.

StatsWatch: Detroit starter Max Scherzer had 14 strikeouts on Sunday against Oakland. He fanned the entire A’s starting lineup. Here were his victims:

Daric Barton, 3 K’s

Ryan Sweeney, 2 K’s

Mark Ellis, 2 K’s

Gabe Gross, 2 K’s

Jack Cust, 1 K

Landon Powell, 1 K

Cliff Pennington, 1 K

Rajai Davis, 1 K

Kevin Kouzmanoff, 1 K

Copyright © 2010  Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media.