Rafael Ramirez lined a single over shortstop with one out in the ninth inning yesterday to convert Dale Murphy's 30th stolen base into his 130th run scored this season--Atlanta's winning run as the Braves beat Los Angeles, 3-2, and enhanced their flagging chances of catching the Dodgers in the National League West race.
The game drew 43,999, raising the Braves' home attendance to 2,031,456--the first time the team has surpassed 2 million since moving to Atlanta in 1966.
"You are not going to see a better at bat than Ramirez had right at the end," Braves Manager Joe Torre said. "He came back from an 0-2 count and got the job done."
The Braves drew within 4 1/2 games of the Dodgers, whose magic number is five. Los Angeles has eight games remaining, Atlanta nine. The teams complete their season series Sunday with the Dodgers ahead, 11-6.
"Last year we won 13 in a row at the start of the season," Torre said. "There's no reason we can't win 10 in a row now. We're scratching and clawing."
Murphy started the decisive rally when he drew a walk--and stole second to become only the sixth player in major league history to attain at least 30 stolen bases and 30 home runs in the same season. He has 35 homers.
Chris Chambliss was walked intentionally and Ramirez delivered his hit to left off Tom Niedenfuer (8-3).
"We still got a chance," Braves second baseman Glenn Hubbard said. "It's more or less win every game."
Pascual Perez (14-8) pitched a six-hitter in ending a personal five-game losing streak, on his ninth attempt at his 14th victory.
The Dodgers gained a 2-2 tie in the fifth. Pitcher Joe Beckwith got his first hit in the majors, a single to center, and scored from first on Steve Sax's double to center. Sax came around on a ground out and Dusty Baker's third of four singles.
Hubbard hit his 11th home run of the season in the Braves' fourth following a leadoff walk to Brett Butler. Hubbard's homer was the first hit off Bob Welch, who left the game one batter later because of bursitis in his left hip and was replaced by Beckwith.
The Dodgers wasted a big opportunity in the eighth when Russell led off with a walk and took third on Baker's single. With the infield in, Pedro Guerrero grounded to shortstop Ramirez, who flipped to Hubbard for the force at second. Russell was late in breaking for the plate and Hubbard alertly threw home to nail the Dodger shortstop and complete a double play.
"No question about it, it was the play of the game," said Los Angeles Manager Tommy Lasorda. "It's a very difficult play for the runner to decide whether to go or not."
Torre also said the double play was the turning point.
"The key was Ramirez knowing right away what his first priority was and looking Russell back," Torre said. "Hubby has such quick hands that he was able to get Russell when some other second baseman might not have gotten him."
Hubbard said he didn't think he had "enough arm to get Russell. I just threw it as hard as I could and Benny (Bruce Benedict) hung in there and blocked the plate.