Atlanta Braves third baseman Chris Johnson cannot field a infield ground ball against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning at Turner Field on Thursday. (Reuters)
ATLANTA — The Los Angeles Dodgers have the best record in the National League because of their success on the road rather than at home.
The Dodgers improved to 40-26 away from Los Angeles with a 6-4 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Thursday afternoon that completed a 6-3 trip.
The Dodgers’ top three hitters went 9-for-13, with leadoff man Dee Gordon scoring four times and Adrian Gonzalez driving in three runs.
“When your guys at the top get on, it changes the game,” manager Don Mattingly said.
Gordon showed his speed to the utmost. In going 3-for-4 with a walk, two of his hits were bunts and another didn’t leave the infield. Once on, he increased his major league-leading stolen base total to 54 with two swipes.
“I know I need to bunt. It’s part of my game and I needed to be doing it a little more,” Gordon said.
The Braves made it interesting, though, against the Dodgers’ bullpen, leaving two runners in scoring position when Kensley Jansen struck out center fielder B.J. Upton to end the game.
The Dodgers (70-53) haven’t had a losing road trip all season and lead the National League West by 5 1/2 games over San Francisco after taking three of four from the Braves.
“Hopefully you didn’t jinx us,” Gordon said when reminded of the Dodgers’ road success. “I guess we like to strike first.”
First baseman Gonzalez was 3-for-5 with a double and his three RBIs, while center fielder Yasiel Puig was 3-for-4, and made the defensive play of the game by crashing into the fence to rob Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman of extra bases in the sixth inning.
Freeman was 3-for-4 with two doubles and a walk, finishing the series 7-for-14.
Roberto Hernandez, acquired from Philadelphia last week, limited the Braves to three hits and a run over six innings, but the Braves (61-60) scored three runs off reliever Brian Wilson in the eighth inning.
Jansen struck out pinch hitter Evan Gattis to end that rally. Then, after Gonzalez had plated Gordon for an insurance run with double off reliever Luis Avilan in the, Jansen survived a single by right fielder Jason Heyward and double by Freeman for his 34th save.
Braves left fielder Justin Upton had a two-run double off Wilson in the eighth and shortstop Andrelton Simmons made it briefly a one-run game with an RBI single against Jansen.
Hernandez registered his second quality start in as many outings with the Dodgers while improving to 7-8 overall. He struck out five and walked four.
The right-hander had received a no-decision on Friday at Milwaukee, giving up two runs on three hits in six innings while striking out five and walking none.
“This trip turned into a good one,” Mattingly said. “(The Braves) had struggled on the road, but they’re good here. We didn’t want things for them to change (for the better) against us.”
Braves starter Aaron Harang (9-7) had gone nine starts without a loss, posting a 4-0 record and 2.55 ERA during the stretch. The Dodgers, though, jumped to a quick four-run lead thanks to Gordon’s speed and a two-run homer by catcher Sal Butero.
Gordon scored after a leadoff bunt single in the first inning and a leadoff walk in the the third, stealing second base both times. In between, Butero hit his third homer of the season after a two-out walk in the second.
The Braves scored in the fourth thanks to two walks, but Gordon quickly got the run back in the fifth after his second hit. He came around on a single Gonzalez and Harang was gone after his shortest outing of the season.
“Every pitch I threw came back to the middle of the plate,” the veteran right-hander said.
Harang allowed seven hits and five runs over 4 1/3 innings. It was just the seventh time in 25 starts this season that he had allowed more than two earned runs in a game.
Gordon set the tone early and often.
“With his speed, all he has to do is get the ball on the ground,” Harang said.