Braves attempt to split series with Dodgers

( - The Atlanta Braves look to come away with a split of a four-game series versus the Los Angeles Dodgers when the two clubs close out their set Thursday afternoon at Turner Field.

After losing the first two games of this series by scores of 6-2 and 4-2, the Braves returned the favor with Wednesday's 3-2 win. The victory didn't come easy, as Braves closer Craig Kimbrel needed to work out of a ninth-inning jam to record his 35th save.

Kimbrel walked Andre Ethier to start the inning and the speedy Dee Gordon reached on an infield single. Kimbrel got Dodgers star outfielder Yasiel Puig swinging for the first out and Adrian Gonzalez singled to load the bases for Matt Kemp, who grounded into a game-ending double play.

"(Kimbrel) doesn't get rattled," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of his closer. "Maybe that's maturity being in those situations."

Ervin Santana posted his 12th win (12-6) and allowed two runs with nine strikeouts across six innings.

Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons returned to the lineup and drove in two runs. He hadn't played since Aug. 5 because of an ankle injury. Justin Upton knocked in the other run for the Braves, who won for only the third time in the last 14 tries and remained five games behind Washington for the NL East lead. The Nationals defeated the New York Mets Wednesday night.

The Braves are 3-3 on a 10-game homestand and will host Oakland next for three games. The homestand comes on the heels of an 0-8 road trip.

Atlanta is 9-16 since the All-Star break and will send Aaron Harang to the mound Thursday in hopes of earning a split with Los Angeles. Harang made 31 starts for the Dodgers in 2012 and went 10-10 with a 3.61 earned run average. He has recorded five straight no-decisions -- all Atlanta losses -- and threw seven innings of one-run ball in a 4-1 loss to Washington on Saturday.

Harang is 9-6 with a 3.31 ERA and hasn't won 10 games in a season since his lone stint with the Dodgers. The veteran right-hander, who won four straight starts from June 24-July 10, is 4-3 in 13 home outings and 4-6 with a 4.40 ERA in 12 career starts against the Dodgers.

The Dodgers will try again for a series win Thursday in the finale of their nine-game road trip (5-3). They still have the best record in the National League at 69-53 and almost pulled off the comeback last night.

Carl Crawford went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored, while Gordon and A.J. Ellis posted two hits apiece. Miguel Rojas knocked in a run for the Dodgers, whose lead atop the NL West standings was trimmed to five games over San Francisco after the Giants defeated the Chicago White Sox Wednesday.

"We ran into a great starting pitcher," Ellis said of Santana.

Puig walked and struck out four times, but Crawford continued his torrid pace at the plate. Crawford is batting .433 with five runs and 13 hits in his last nine games (7 starts). Kemp, meanwhile, has hit safely in his last nine games and in 11 of the past 12 since Aug. 2.

Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu was aiming for his 14th win of the season, but fell to 13-6 after he surrendered all three runs and six hits over 5 2/3 innings. Ryu struck out seven and walked two, and left the game with a right leg strain. He is day-to-day.

"There's a little concern because it's a new area that's never bothered me before," Ryu said through an interpreter. "So right now, the only thing I want to do is sleep through and see how I feel tomorrow morning."

The Dodgers will return home after today's game to start a nine-game stay versus Milwaukee, San Diego and New York (Mets) at Chavez Ravine.

Taking the mound for LA Thursday will be Roberto Hernandez. Hernandez was recently acquired in a trade with Philadelphia because Josh Beckett was hampered by a hip issue and made his Dodgers debut in a 9-3 loss to the Brewers last Friday. He pitched well in the no-decision, charged with two runs and three hits in six innings.

Hernandez struck out five and walked none. He is 6-8 overall this season with a 3.83 earned run average and will make his fifth career start against the Braves. The right-hander is 2-1 with a 3.81 ERA in the first four starts.

Los Angeles swept a three-game series with the Braves in late July and has won seven of the last 10 meetings between the two ballclubs.