Luis Cruz and Mark Ellis proved the Dodgers don’t always have to rely on the middle of their lineup.
Cruz homered for the second game in a row, Ellis hit a three-run double and Chad Billingsley combined with two relievers for a three-hit shutout to lead Los Angeles to a 5-0 win over the Atlanta Braves on Sunday.
Kemp, Ramirez, Ethier and Rivera were a combined 0 for 16.
“The good thing about this team is if it’s not Hanley or Matty or Ethier, somebody else has been doing the job,” Cruz said.
Cruz, the third baseman called up from Triple-A Albuquerque on July 3, had two hits to complete a productive series. He was 6 for 11 (.545) with two homers and a double.
Cruz said hitting homers in back-to-back games “is crazy.”
“I feel good,” he said. “I’ve been working a lot and I thank God they gave me the opportunity to prove what I can do, and I think I’m doing a good job.”
Mark Ellis drove in four runs and A.J. Ellis had three hits and scored a run.
Billingsley (10-9) gave up three hits in seven innings, striking out four and walking two. He is 6-0 since the All-Star break after losing five in a row. He reached 10 wins for the sixth consecutive season.
Los Angeles took two of three to end Atlanta’s streak of seven consecutive series wins. The Braves head to Washington to begin a three-game set against the NL East-leading Nationals.
Cruz homered deep into the left-field seats in the fifth off Mike Minor (6-10) for a 1-0 lead. Cruz hit one of the Dodgers’ four homers in their 6-2 win over the Braves on Saturday night.
Minor allowed one run on five hits and no walks in seven innings. He hasn’t allowed more than three runs in his last eight starts, but he has three consecutive losses.
Chad Durbin walked pinch-hitter Juan Uribe to start the eighth. Uribe moved to third on Shane Victorino’s hit-and-run single to left and scored when a flyball hit by Mark Ellis dropped in front of right fielder Jason Heyward for a single. Heyward lost the ball in the sun even though he was wearing sunglasses.
Heyward said the ball kept falling away from him and remained directly in the sun.
“I tried to stay on it as long as I could but it kept going the other way,” Heyward said.
Heyward lost another ball in the sun in the ninth, giving A.J. Ellis a double off Cristhian Martinez. Pinch-hitter Adam Kennedy followed with a bloop single to left between shortstop Paul Janish and left fielder Reed Johnson.
Cristhian Martinez walked Victorino to load the bases. Mark Ellis followed with his three-run double down the left-field line.
“I can’t explain it to you,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Heyward’s struggles in the field. “We lost two balls in the sun.
“When you give a team outs or opportunities with balls in the sun or losing fly balls and that kind of stuff or walking people, it seems like it’s written in the rule book someplace that sooner or later somebody’s going to hit a ball in the gap. And that’s what they did.”
There was sarcastic applause from the crowd of 26,798 when Heyward caught Kemp’s flyball for the second out of the ninth.
Heyward tripled with two outs in the fourth for Atlanta’s first hit. Billingsley walked Freddie Freeman before Dan Uggla popped out.
The Braves’ only other scoring opportunity against Billingsley came when Michael Bourn singled with one out in the sixth, stole second and moved to third on Martin Prado’s grounder. Heyward struck out to end the inning, and then tossed his bat and helmet in frustration.
Braves catcher Brian McCann was 0 for 3 after sitting out two straight games. He said Saturday he has a cyst and a frayed labrum in his right shoulder but can play through the discomfort. He is hitting only .103 (4 for 39) in August and .227 overall.