ATLANTA -- Dee Gordon didn't start Saturday and didn't appear in the game until the eighth inning.
By the end of the night, though, he was a game changer. The rookie shortstop had a hit, scored the decisive run on Juan Rivera's sacrifice fly in the 10th inning of a 2-1 win over the Braves and was being compared by his manager to a pair of the most gifted speedsters of the last quarter century.
"Deion Sanders," manager Don Mattingly, whose team's win streak reached a season-high six, said when asked to name the fastest runner of his generation. "It's hard to compare that speed. Dee can fly. Bo Jackson was pretty good. Deion chewed up ground, and this guy's the same way. Those strides once he gets going."
The Dodgers have gotten going too, even if it's apparently too late. They've won 11 of their last 12 and are only two games below .500. The last time they were at .500 was May 2.
A.J. Ellis homered and Nathan Eovaldi allowed only one run over six innings in what Mattingly said would be the 21-year-old right-hander's final start of the season. He will be in the bullpen the rest of the way to keep down his innings.
With Eovaldi leaving the game tied at 1, the Dodgers' bullpen that pitched five innings Friday night checked in with four scoreless frames in this game, Mike MacDougal getting the win and Javy Guerra his 15th save.
"That was disgusting what we were facing tonight," Braves second baseman Dan Uggla said of Dodgers relievers MacDougal, Guerra, Hong-Chih Kuo, Kenley Jansen and Scott Elbert. "That's kind of the way the game is now."
Although Clayton Kershaw figures to give the bullpen a rest Sunday, look for Ramon Troncoso to be summoned from Triple-A Albuquerque for protection anyway. For reasons unknown, the Dodgers have kept their September callups to a minimum so far, which very nearly left Mattingly empty as he made the needed moves to win an extra-inning game on the road. When the game ended, the Dodgers had no unused position players on the bench.
They got away with it in large part because of Gordon, who led off the 10th inning with a line drive to center field. Michael Bourn, shading Gordon toward left-center, fielded the ball on two hops and fired to second, but Gordon was in there standing up.
James Loney bunted Gordon to third, Matt Kemp was walked intentionally and Gordon (who returned three days earlier from a bruised shoulder) scored with a head-first dive on a sacrifice fly by Rivera, his 28th RBI in 41 games as a Dodger.
"The way he goes around the bases is unlike any runner I've ever seen before," Ellis said of Gordon. "I'm really happy, as a catcher, he's on my team."
Gordon said he wasn't thinking double when he hit the ball. He said he was thinking that before he hit the ball.
"I saw they were playing me to left-center and I figured if I hit one up the middle I could get a double," said Gordon. "It doesn't bother me when they're playing that way. Sure, they'll take some hits. But in a key situation, I can still come through for the team. Sometimes you've got to push the envelope, but I don't think I really pushed the envelope that time."
Gordon said he's never been timed in a 40-yard dash and wasn't in position to compare himself to Sanders, who played baseball for the Braves while he was playing football for the Falcons.
"I never saw Deion run and I don't know how fast I am," he said. "I've won every race I've had, at least since I was really little."
The Dodgers and Braves traded second-inning solo homers, Ellis slugging his second with two outs and Uggla answering with his 32nd homer leading off the bottom of the inning.
Atlanta had a scoring chance in the third, when Alex Gonzalez led off with a walk. But Braves starting pitcher Mike Minor was unable to bunt him to second, striking out on a foul attempt with the runner going on the pitch. Bourn singled Gonzalez to third, but second baseman Jamey Carroll and shortstop Justin Sellers turned a double play on Martin Prado's sharp grounder to end the inning.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.