LOS ANGELES -- This had the makings to be a night when the Braves would preserve Paul Maholm's impressive pitching performance with some late-inning offensive magic. Instead, it was one in which that potential magic was tarnished by two wild pitches and umpire CB Bucknor's disputed call.
The Braves expressed a sense of disbelief as they attempted to digest Friday night's 2-1, 10-inning loss to the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. A game dominated by pitching ended with Anthony Varvaro's wild pitch and reason to wonder how things might have been different had Bucknor ruled Justin Upton safe at first base in the top half what proved to be the final inning, as replays indicated would have been just.
"A loss is aggravating all the time," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "That was an odd way to lose one. They get a base hit and two wild pitches and you end up losing the game. But it doesn't hurt any more or any less than any other loss."
The Dodgers celebrated a unique walk-off win when Braves rookie catcher Evan Gattis was unable to block Anthony Varvaro's 1-0 curveball with runners on the corners and one out. Pinch-runner Skip Schumaker raced to the plate to score the decisive run on what was ruled Varvaro's second wild pitch within a span of eight pitches.
"It's been done that way before, but it's definitely the worst way," said Varvaro, who allowed consecutive one-out singles to Ramon Hernandez and Luis Cruz during the decisive rally.
After recording his single, Hernandez took second base when Gattis was unable to handle Varvaro's first-pitch fastball to Cruz, who followed with a single to put runners at the corners. Juan Uribe then looked at the decisive 12-to-6 curveball that bounced off Gattis's chest protector and went toward the third-base dugout.
"I didn't block it," Gattis said. "I didn't get the job done."
There is a chance Varvaro would not have even made an appearance had Bucknor not ruled Upton out after he hustled down to first base after producing a two-out dribbler in front of the plate in the 10th inning. Replays showed Upton beat Hernandez's throw to first base. Had he been ruled safe, the Braves would have had runners at the corners with the red-hot Freddie Freeman coming to the plate looking to record his fourth hit of the night.
"In real life, I didn't think it was even that close," Gonzalez said. "I think when we go home and watch the film I'll be pretty correct on that. But that's the way it goes sometimes."
Upton chose to say a whole lot while saying little when asked if he was happy first-base coach Terry Pendleton had prevented him from staging an argument that might have led to an ejection.
"I wasn't surprised, so I wasn't going to do anything to jeopardize the game," Upton said. "I wasn't the least bit surprised."
The manner in which this game concluded was certainly surprising to the Braves, who have scored just one run through the first two games of this series. After getting shut out on Thursday night, the lone run they scored Thursday came when Freeman opened the fourth inning with a double and scored on Dan Uggla's two-out single off Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Gattis stranded a pair of runners in the eighth inning when he produced a harmless two-out pop fly while facing Kenley Jansen for the first time since hitting a game-winning home run against the Dodgers reliever on May 18. The squandered late-inning opportunities wasted the effort provided by Maholm, who scattered four hits and allowed just one run in 7 1/3 innings.
Maholm induced three double plays through the first five innings and produced 14 ground-ball outs. He had retired 11 of the previous 12 batters he faced before hanging a curveball that Yasiel Puig hit into the left-field seats to tie the game with two outs in the sixth inning.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the homer made Puig just the second player in the modern era (since 1900) to hit four home runs in the first five games of his Major League career. Mike Jacobs of the 2005 Mets was the first.
"He's come up and he's hot," Maholm said. "I got him out easy the first two times. I missed horrible on the pitch and he hit a home run. He's hot and it happens. But let's not crown him a Hall of Famer yet."
Gonzalez has seen his starting pitchers allow two runs and surrender just nine hits in the 22 1/3 innings they have completed over the past three games. But courtesy of this latest wacky conclusion, they still have just one win to show for their efforts during this span.
"We had some opportunities," Gonzalez said. "I would have loved to have taken a chance there in the 10th with first and third and Freeman at the plate. But that didn't materialize for whatever reason."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.nee This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.