LOS ANGELES -- Martin Prado has struggled to regain the offensive consistency that has eluded him since the conclusion of his 2010 All-Star season. But it appears the gritty veteran still has plenty of that determination that has made him such a popular figure around the Braves' clubhouse.
Prado gave his teammates something to celebrate on Tuesday night, when he concluded a seven-pitch, ninth-inning at-bat against Javy Guerra with a two-out RBI triple that proved decisive in a 4-3 win over the Dodgers.
"Martin Prado gave me my birthday present, that was the best one of the day," said Chipper Jones, who also aided this victory with a fifth-inning solo shot that made him just the fifth player in Major League history to hit a home run on his 40th birthday.
Once Craig Kimbrel snapped a two-game losing streak with three strikeouts in a scoreless ninth inning, the Braves were celebrating the contributions of many. Mike Minor had delivered six strong innings and Prado produced the key hit. But their efforts might have gone for naught had Tyler Pastornicky not produced a career-best three-hit performance after spending the previous three days attempting to get his mind and swing right.
Mired in a slump that had dropped his batting average to .171, Pastornicky admitted he had been placing too much pressure on himself during the first few weeks of his Major League career. But the rookie shortstop did not seem overwhelmed when he began the decisive ninth with a single off Guerra, the Dodgers' closer who had limited opponents to a .160 (4-for-25) average.
"Sometimes you've just got to let young players relax a little bit," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "The first couple months in the big leagues can be overwhelming. It was nice to see."
With Pastornicky on second base and two outs in the ninth, Prado fouled four pitches before finally connecting on a 1-2 fastball. Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp chased after the long drive and dropped it just before leaping and smacking into the wall.
Pastornicky scored easily on the play and Kimbrel pitched around a walk and a single before notching his sixth save for the Braves, who have won 11 of their past 14 games.
"I'm just trying to find myself at home plate right now," Prado said in reference to the .258 batting average he carried into the game. "The only thing I can control right now is to battle and have good at-bats."
One of Prado's biggest supporters, Jones has come to appreciate the versatile Venezuelan's ability to produce quality at-bats in clutch situations.
"He's the consummate professional," Jones said. "He's going to stand up there and he's going to grind out at-bats. That was no easy task right there. That guy has dominant stuff. He had a long at-bat and fouled off some tough pitches until he finally got one. To be honest, I thought he hit it out. But it's like Yellowstone Park once the sun goes down here."
There are not many parks that would have been able to hold the monstrous blast Juan Rivera hit off Minor in the first inning. The two-run shot traveled an estimated 437 feet and managed to stay fair before hooking around the left-field foul pole.
That would be the only costly mistake made by Minor, who ended his strong six-inning effort by minimizing the potential damage created by two soft singles to begin the bottom of the sixth. With two on and none out, the young left-hander got Kemp to hit a grounder that would have resulted in a double play had Dan Uggla not made a bad throw to first base.
Uggla's errant throw allowed Dee Gordon to score from second and erase the lead the Braves had gained with two outs in the top of the sixth inning. Brian McCann raced across the plate with the go-ahead run after Aaron Harang uncorked a wild pitch with Pastornicky staring at an 0-2 count.
"I tried to make too good of a pitch, a slider, and pulled it in the dirt," Harang said. "At 0-2, you try to get it down and out of the zone and hope they swing over it or it's in the dirt."
Harang surrendered just one hit through the first four innings and he had retired 12 of the previous 13 batters he had faced before being victimized by Jones' latest birthday home run. Jones made his birthday memorable by beginning the fifth inning with a long home run into the Braves' bullpen beyond the right-field wall.
After Jones drilled his fifth career birthday home run, Jason Heyward and Pastornicky followed with consecutive singles. A one-out walk to Michael Bourn loaded the bases. But the only other run the Braves scored during the frame came courtesy of Prado's game-tying RBI groundout.
The fact that Pastornicky played a role in each of the four runs the Braves scored did not go unnoticed by Gonzalez or Jones, who had told the 22-year-old shortstop earlier in the day to simply try to relax and play the game.
"It's nice to go out there and have a nice night and see some of the work I've been doing pay off," Pastornicky said.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.