Down to their final out at Dodger Stadium on Friday night, the Braves seemed destined to focus on a wacky three-run fifth inning that went wrong after plate umpire Eric Cooper baffled them by seemingly signaling a strike and then reversing what had the makings to be a costly decision.
But with Garret Anderson enhancing the joy of his return to Southern California with a pair of clutch hits, and Peter Moylan providing Yunel Escobar the opportunity to deliver the game-winning single in the 9-5 win over the Dodgers, the Braves turned their attention away from Cooper and set their sights on the fight to remain alive in the postseason race.
"To come back like that shows a lot of heart," said Moylan, who escaped potential 11th-inning trouble and was credited with a well-deserved victory. "This is what this team does. We'll lose a few, but it seems like no matter what the situation looks like, we always feel like we can win the game."
Down to their final out, the Braves erased a once-three-run deficit when Anderson produced a game-tying, two-out, ninth-inning single off All-Star closer Jonathan Broxton, who found trouble after Nate McLouth drew a one-out walk and stole second base.
Once again showing some of those clutch skills he'd displayed while playing his previous 15 Major League seasons in Anaheim with the Angels, Anderson further enriched his homecoming with a one-out single in the 12th that helped put himself in position to score the game-winning run when Escobar delivered his decisive two-out single to right off Scott Elbert.
"I'm really happy to be the guy, but it's more important that the team won," said Escobar, who is now hitting .419 (38-for-93) with runners in scoring position. "I'm really happy that everybody put something in to win this game today."
Given the opportunity to quickly rebound after allowing Andre Ethier's walk-off homer on Thursday night, Rafael Soriano pitched the bottom of the 12th inning with the added insurance provided by Ryan Church's three-run homer off Elbert.
"With a comeback like that, we proved to the rest of the league that we're not going anywhere yet," said Moylan, who intentionally walked Ethier to load the bases in the 11th inning, and then ended the threat by getting pinch-hitter Tony Abreu to ground out.
With the victory, the Braves moved to within 4 1/2 games of the top spot in the National League Wild Card race and took advantage of loss by the Phillies, who are now 6 1/2 games in front of them in the NL East race.
"It's pretty good coming back from three runs down," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "We had some major hitting tonight."
Before Kelly Johnson aided the comeback with a two-run, seventh-inning homer and Escobar capped it, Cox was seemingly ready to hit something and release some of the frustration that was displayed when Cooper handed him his 148th career ejection.
The Dodgers gained the first lead of the game in the fifth, courtesy of Casey Blake's three-run homer, which followed Cooper's decision to ignore the strike call that he seemingly signaled on a 3-1 pitch to Ethier.
After Cooper clenched his right fist, and, according to some Braves, actually yelled "strike," Brian McCann threw to second base and led umpire Chuck Meriwether to rule Rafael Furcal out on an attempted steal. But the plate umpire Cooper then reversed his decision and awarded Ethier first base with a walk.
Instead of having one out and nobody on base, Jair Jurrjens found two men on base and just one out when Blake drilled his three-run homer. That marked the end of the night for the Braves right-hander, who also was ejected when he said something to Cooper as he was walking toward the dugout.
"I don't know what [Cooper] was trying to tell me," Cox said. "These guys are scrutinized so much that you hate to say anything. They have supervisors. They have Ques-Tec. They have the computer box and all of that [stuff]. I don't know. I've never seen that before, and the ball got all kinds of the plate."
Last week in Miami, Cox and many of the Braves were irritated when plate umpire Bill Hohn opted to exchange a fist-bump with Marlins catcher John Baker. Thanks to a comeback Friday that was aided by clutch hits and the two scoreless innings Mike Gonzalez provided in front of Moylan, the veteran skipper puffed on his postgame cigar and found delight in the fact that he didn't have to focus solely on Cooper's fist.
"That was a huge win," Johnson said.