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LAD@ATL: Prado's solo shot cuts into Dodgers' lead

ATLANTA -- As Ben Sheets encountered success during the early portion of his improbable comeback, he prepared himself for the possibility of enduring days like this. Well, maybe not quite this odd.

Sheets experienced a frustratingly unique six-inning effort filled with a long stretch of perfection and blemished by the career-high four home runs that he surrendered as the Braves took a 6-2 loss to the Dodgers in the Civil Rights Game on Saturday night.

"It was a weird game," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Four hits, four home runs and six runs and we left 11 stranded. I don't think I've ever seen that kind of box score really."

The four home runs surrendered by Sheets served as the only hits he allowed while being charged with a season-high six runs in six innings. The 34-year-old right-hander had allowed just two home runs in his six starts (38 innings) since ending his two-year retirement after the All-Star break.

This marked the sixth time since 1921 that a Major League pitcher allowed exactly four hits and four home runs while completing at least six innings. Cincinnati's Mat Latos and Texas' Colby Lewis both allowed exactly five home runs on five hits while completing at least six innings this year.

Hanley Ramirez supplied most of the damage against Sheets with a two-homer performance that began when he hit the first of the back-to-back-to-back home runs that Sheets surrendered with one out in the second inning. The Dodgers shortstop capped his productive evening with a three-run home run with two outs in the sixth inning.

"I went through a stretch where I just didn't make a pitch there," Sheets said. "The difference of a good game and a bad game is that Hanley Ramirez at-bat. The good ones you make one pitch and get out of it. The other ones, he hits it into the seats."

Sheets retired the first four batters he faced before allowing Ramirez, James Loney and Luis Cruz to hit three consecutive home runs within a span of four pitches in the second inning. He then retired 13 straight batters before issuing consecutive two-out walks ahead of Ramirez's three-run home run in the sixth inning.

"The solo homers I can deal with," Sheets said. "I can pitch around those. You don't see people go back-to-back-to-back too often. But the two walks with two outs in the sixth inning, [makes me mad] to be nice about it."

Other than the three consecutive home runs in the second inning and the three costly plate appearances with two outs in the sixth, Sheets proved perfect. In fact, it could be argued that he was much more efficient than Dodgers starter Aaron Harang, who allowed just one run despite issuing five walks and finding the strike zone with barely half of his pitches (58 of 115) in 6 2/3 innings.

After beginning the bottom of the first inning with a four-pitch walk to Michael Bourn, Harang's pitch count included more balls than strikes up until he ended his outing with a strikeout of Martin Prado.

The Braves missed a prime opportunity after Prado scored Bourn with a double before the Dodgers recorded an out in the first inning. Harang issued two more walks in the first inning and then escaped a bases-loaded, two-out jam with a strikeout of his nemesis, David Ross, who entered this game with four hits, including three home runs, in nine at-bats against his former Reds teammate.

"Harang was just wild enough," Ross said. "I think he was throwing just as many balls as he did strikes. I don't think he was on his game like he can be. He was just wild enough it seemed today."

Each of the nine hits the two teams combined for during this game were extra-base hits. The Dodgers profited from their four home runs and the Braves scored just once before Prado hit his seventh homer in the ninth inning.

Sheets had surrendered three home runs in a game six previous times during his career. The Dodgers have now accounted for four of the seven occasions in which he has allowed at least three home runs in a game.

Since winning each of his first three starts and allowing just one run in the process, Sheets has lost three of his first four starts of this month and allowed at least five runs in each of his past two outings.

"He's going to throw strikes," Gonzalez said. "He's not going to shy away from the bat. Those pitches, he just left them over the plate a little bit. You get those out of the box score and the three-run homer he allowed in the sixth and that's a pretty good ballgame that he pitched."

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