Braves lead by seven, then hang on to beat Dodgers

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- When Ryan Langerhans homered to open the eighth inning, just about everyone at Dodger Stadium believed all it did was provide the Atlanta Braves with another run in a one-sided victory.

It turned out to be the difference on Opening Day.

Adam LaRoche and Andruw Jones hit three-run homers off Derek Lowe to stake Atlanta to a big lead Monday and the Braves held on to beat the Dodgers 11-10 to spoil manager Grady Little's debut and disappoint a turnout of 56,000 -- the largest single-game regular-season crowd in Dodger Stadium history.

"When I hit it, that was the furthest thing from my mind -- that that would be the run that held up," said Langerhans, who hit Franquelis Osoria's first pitch over the right-field fence. "The first three at-bats, I was a little jumpy. He got a two-seamer up I could hit. I was just happy to have a good swing, hit one out of the park on Opening Day."

The Braves, beginning their quest for a 15th straight division championship, led 11-5 after Langerhans' homer. The Dodgers scored three in their half of the eighth and two in the ninth before Chris Reitsma, the seventh Atlanta pitcher, got the final out.

"It was a struggle on both sides," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "The long ball always helps. We didn't hit particularly great and we pitched super all spring. It was the other way around today."

Tim Hudson, making his fourth Opening Day start, entered with an 87-4 record in 112 outings when he's received at least four runs of support. The Braves staked Hudson to a 4-0 lead before he threw a pitch and led 8-1 before the 30-year-old right-hander was chased in the fifth.

Oscar Villarreal worked 1 1/3 scoreless innings for the victory. Reitsma, who got the final four outs, survived the two-run ninth to earn a save.

Jose Cruz Jr. had four of the Dodgers' 17 hits to equal a career high. Rafael Furcal had three hits and scored three runs against his former team, and Jeff Kent had four RBI.

"There was a lot of excitement in that ballgame out there today," Little said. "Our kids kept coming back."

Regarding Lowe, Little said: "He's had better days than today, and he'll have many more."

Marcus Giles singled to start the game, and one out later Chipper Jones hit what appeared to be a double-play grounder to second. But Kent booted the ball for an error, Andruw Jones followed with an RBI single and LaRoche hit a 1-2 pitch over the
right-field fence for a three-run homer.

The season was five minutes old, and the fans were already booing the new-look Dodgers, who made numerous changes following their second-worst season since moving from Brooklyn in 1958.

Kent hit an RBI single in the third, but the Braves scored another four in the fifth to take an 8-1 lead and knock out Lowe. Chipper Jones hit an RBI single and, after Little visited the
mound, Andruw Jones hit Lowe's first pitch into the left-field bleachers for his three-run homer.

"It was a struggle from the first batter to the end of the fifth," said Lowe, who gave up nine hits and eight runs, seven earned, in five innings. "My job is obviously not to put us in
such a big hole. You look forward to this game for so long and then you go out there. ... I didn't really have that many competitive pitches."

The Dodgers scored four times to chase Hudson in the fifth. He gave up six hits and five runs in four-plus innings.

"I got some balls up," Hudson said. "I wasn't great today -- it was a battle. We don't want to play too many games like this. The important thing is, it's a win."

Edgar Renteria, playing his first game for the Braves, hit a two-out, two-run double off Yhency Brazoban in the sixth to give Atlanta a 10-5 lead.

The Braves' 14 straight division championships is a major-league record, and they've won them all with John Schuerholz as general manager and Bobby Cox as manager. Atlanta moved from the NL West to the NL East in 1994 and is the only team to win that division
since then.

Game notes
Nomar Garciaparra's debut with the Dodgers was put off because the converted first baseman injured a muscle in his right side during his first at-bat in Sunday's exhibition finale against
the Los Angeles Angels. ... Little said Garciaparra might be placed on the disabled list. "They will re-evaluate him tomorrow and we'll go from there," the manager said. The Dodgers already have one starting player, center fielder Kenny Lofton, on the DL. ... Heavy rain was expected Monday night and Tuesday, and that could cause a problem since this three-game series is the Braves' only visit to Dodger Stadium this season. ... The Braves have a 1,432-931 record since the start of the 1991 season -- the best in baseball. ... Kent was presented with the Silver Slugger award before the game as
baseball's best hitting second baseman last season. ... Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda, who managed the Dodgers from 1977-96 and is now a team vice president, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.