ATLANTA -- Jason Schmidt, plagued by self-doubt, wasn't sure he wanted to be on the mound.
Six scoreless innings, his longest start in more than two years, lifted Schmidt's spirits and Andre Ethier hit a homer and drove in four runs to lift the Los Angeles Dodgers past the Atlanta Braves 5-0 on Friday night."Very surprising," Schmidt said after giving up one hit. "I hate to say that because it doesn't sound good. ... It was big. Every start is big for me."Schmidt, making only his third start of the season, may have been pitching to protect his spot in the rotation. He gave up five hits and five runs, four earned, in three innings in a loss to Florida on Sunday. His ERA dropped from 7.88 to 4.50 with the strong start against the Braves."This is the kind of pressure he has handled very well in his career," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "I'm so happy for him. ... I thought I spied his juices coming back."Schmidt, Ramon Troncoso, George Sherrill and James McDonald combined on a three-hitter. McDonald retired the final six batters.Ethier hit a three-run homer in the fifth off Tommy Hanson (5-2) and added a run-scoring double in the ninth.Schmidt (2-1) walked five and struck out three in six innings, his longest start since going six innings for the Dodgers at San Diego on June 5, 2007.The right-hander missed 2008 after surgery on June 20, 2007 repaired a torn labrum and a frayed biceps tendon in his right shoulder."Just to be out there is kind of a miracle in itself. I wasn't sure if they wanted me to," Schmidt, 36, said of the Dodgers. "I wasn't sure if I wanted to. It ended up going a lot better than I expected."Sherrill, acquired from Baltimore on Wednesday, struck out the side in the seventh in his debut with the Dodgers.After Troncoso gave up singles to Diory Hernandez and pinch-hitter Greg Norton, Sherrill struck out Nate McLouth and Kelly Johnson before walking Chipper Jones to load the bases. Sherrill got Brian McCann on a called third strike to end the inning."You say he's your eighth-inning guy, but the way they were lined up tonight, the seventh inning was your most important inning," Torre said of Sherrill, who was the Orioles' closer.Jones' third-inning single was the only hit off Schmidt, who began his career by appearing in nine games on the Braves' 1995 World Series championship team.Jones said this is a different Schmidt than the one who pitched for Pittsburgh and San Francisco after his two seasons in Atlanta."It's the first time I've ever faced him that he's not thrown me a changeup," Jones said. "There's just not that much difference between his changeup and his fastball right now. ... But his curveball is much improved."Hanson gave up eight hits and four runs in six innings to lose his second straight start.Russell Martin and Rafael Furcal reached on fifth-inning singles before scoring on Ethier's homer.Ethier leads the Dodgers with his career-best 21 homers. He passed James Loney for the team lead with 66 RBIs."Someone has to get on base for you to be able to get the RBIs," Ethier said. "The guys did a good job getting on base ahead of me."Orlando Hudson walked and scored on Furcal's single in the seventh, pushing the lead to 4-0.Manny Ramirez was 1 for 4 with two strikeouts on the one-year anniversary of his trade to Los Angeles from Boston.
Braves manager Bobby Cox said OF Ryan Church (elbow) and SS Yunel Escobar (bruised right wrist) were unavailable. 2B Martin Prado (bruised left ankle) did not start and hit a deep fly ball to center in the ninth as a pinch-hitter. ... Cox had to change his lineup after the team traded 1B Casey Kotchman to Boston for 1B Adam LaRoche. 1B Barbaro Canizares started after he was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett before the game. ... RHP Tim Hudson was scratched from his injury rehab start at Gwinnett with a mild groin strain. ... Sherrill filled the roster spot of RHP Claudio Vargas, traded to Milwaukee on Friday for minor league C Vinny Rottino.