ATLANTA -- Manny Machado's first Dodgers homer will surely get the video highlights, but solid starting pitching is what got his new team into first place, and Rich Hill continued the trend on Thursday night in an 8-2 win over the Braves.Hill spun a three-hitter over seven scoreless innings with
ATLANTA -- Manny Machado's first Dodgers homer will surely get the video highlights, but solid starting pitching is what got his new team into first place, and Rich Hill continued the trend on Thursday night in an 8-2 win over the Braves.
Hill spun a three-hitter over seven scoreless innings with eight strikeouts to even his record at 4-4. Since coming off the disabled list for a second time on June 19, Hill is 3-2 with a 2.47 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 43 2/3 innings.
"That was a silver lining," Hill said of the month he missed from May 20-June 19. While sidelined, Hill not only worked his finger blister into a protective callus, but he eliminated a mechanical flaw, improving his balance on the rubber and the angle of his delivery.
"The changes were very minuscule, but huge overall," he said. "Looking back on it, absolutely, it was a good thing. Tonight was a good night. The ball came out really well, and I'm looking forward to continuing that. That's what the bullpen and the work are for in between starts, to keep that feel and make sure you stick with the mechanical changes we made and don't veer off."
• Machado hits first Dodgers HR, gets the ball
Hill said he dropped down sidearm more than usual on Thursday night with great success, helping to continue his career dominance over the Braves. He's 5-0 with a 1.74 ERA in nine games (seven starts) against them. This was his first start in Georgia since 2007.
"Considering where we were at with the bullpen, [seven innings from Hill] was huge for us," said manager Dave Roberts, who asked his bullpen to throw 11 1/3 innings the previous two games, not counting utility man Enrique Hernandez's one-third of an inning on Tuesday night.
In July, Dodgers starting pitchers are 10-3 with a 3.25 ERA, 126 strikeouts and 26 walks. Atlanta's runs came on a homer by Ronald Acuna Jr. off Daniel Hudson in the eighth inning.
With the win, the Dodgers extended their division lead to 1 1/2 games, their largest of the season, capitalizing on repeated misplays by the Braves' infield. And it was a solid rebound after losing back-to-back games in Philadelphia.
"That was tough, but we're going to forget about that series," said Machado, who has three homers in 15 career at-bats against Braves starter Anibal Sanchez, who took Thursday's loss. "We're just going to continue playing the game we've been playing. To start off a big series against a team like Atlanta with a big win is huge, and we'll just come back tomorrow and try to do the same thing."
Atlanta's defensive issues began with an error by former Dodgers infielder Charlie Culberson in a two-run fifth inning off Anibal Sanchez. Machado padded the lead with a Statcast™ projected 426-foot homer to left-center on the first pitch of the sixth inning, and Hill helped himself with an RBI single after Alex Verdugo reached second on an infield single and throwing error by second baseman Ozzie Albies. Yasmani Grandal broke it open with a two-run single. He has 13 RBIs this month.
Culberson, the shortstop included in the 4-for-1 Matt Kemp trade this past offseason, couldn't handle a Chris Taylor smash in the third inning that went for the first Dodgers hit, and his throwing error on Cody Bellinger's infield single in the fifth set up the first two Dodgers runs.
After Kemp led off the fifth with a walk, Culberson fielded Bellinger's slow roller up the middle and, with Bellinger hustling down the line, airmailed it over first baseman Freddie Freeman, putting runners on second and third. Kemp scored on Taylor's groundout and Bellinger scored on Verdugo's soft single to left.
The Dodgers scored two more runs on what was ruled a bases-loaded infield single by Joc Pederson, with both Atlanta middle infielders making bad throws and Culberson drawing his second error.
Since dropping 10 games below .500 on May 16, the Dodgers have the best record in the National League at 41-20, behind only Boston (42-19) in MLB. They also have won 21 of their last 30 games against the Braves, dating to the beginning of 2014, and they are 69-39 when visiting NL East cities.
HE SAID IT
"He's young, resilient, made a good play going after that [Preston Tucker double] in the ninth, so I think he's fine." -- Roberts, on right fielder Verdugo, who appeared to injure his right leg sliding into the wall chasing an eighth-inning foul ball, but remained in the game
Clayton Kershaw gets the Friday start against the Braves and Mike Foltynewicz in a 4:35 p.m. PT matchup. Kershaw was undermined by a defense that accounted for three unearned runs in his last start, and he's facing a franchise against which he's 3-0 with a 1.47 career ERA.
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.