LOS ANGELES - When Greg Maddux starts a game by giving up two home runs in the first inning, the questions pile up like traffic around Dodger Stadium.
It's a measure of Maddux's skill that he held the Dodgers at bay for the next five innings Friday night, but the Braves exhausted their offense digging out from the early hole.
Poised to take another dramatic win, the Braves were handed their third loss in four games on this trip when reliever Kevin Gryboski hit Paul Lo Duca with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth to give the Dodgers a 4-3 win before a lively crowd of 50,341 fans who entertained themselves by booing Gary Sheffield.
Dodgers leadoff man Dave Roberts opened the inning by working reliever Darren Holmes for a walk. Roberts stole second, took third on Holmes' throwing error and scored when Gryboski hit Lo Duca on a 2-and-1 delivery.
The Braves had to mount an offense with no help from the middle of their lineup. Their 3-4 hitters - Sheffield and Chipper Jones - combined to go 0-for-8 and hit the ball out of the infield just once.
The Braves fell behind 3-0 in the first, continuing a familiar pattern. They trailed 3-0 in the first game against the Padres and 2-0 after one inning of the third game.
This time, Marquis Grissom scored ahead of Shawn Green's 37th home run of the season, a 351-foot fly that dropped into the second row of the left-field stands. Lo Duca followed one out later with a 405-foot missile to center field.
It was the first time Maddux had given up two home runs in the first inning in three years, but the second time in his last two innings he'd surrendered a pair of long balls. Colorado's Larry Walker and Jay Payton got him in the seventh inning of his last start last Sunday in Atlanta.
The Braves showed intentions of making a game of it in the second when they scored a run on Steve Torrealba's bases-loaded tapper, but Maddux's soft fly was gloved by center fielder Roberts to end the threat.
Dodgers starter Odalis Perez didn't allow another runner to advance beyond first base until the fifth, when Torrealba drew a walk, Maddux bunted him into scoring position and Julio Franco's two-out single through the left side made it 3-2.
Perez, who has a pair of one-hitters on his resume this year and beat the Braves 3-1 at Turner Field in May, created a jam in the seventh.
He hit Darren Bragg with a pitch, then Roberts took a double away from pinch hitter Javy Lopez, leaping at the wall in left-center to glove his drive. Perez then balked, sending Bragg to second, and Rafael Furcal followed with a ground-rule double into the right field corner, sending in Bragg with the game-tying run.
Reach Bill Zack at email@example.com.