ATLANTA (AP) — Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, Andre Ethier and Juan Rivera camp up empty.
Luis Cruz and Mark Ellis proved the Dodgers don’t always have to rely on the middle of their lineup.
Cruz homered for the second game in a row, Ellis hit a three-run double and Chad Billingsley combined with two relievers for a three-hit shutout to lead Los Angeles to a 5-0 win over the Atlanta Braves on Sunday.
Kemp, Ramirez, Ethier and Rivera were a combined 0 for 16.
“The good thing about this team is if it’s not Hanley or Matty or Ethier, somebody else has been doing the job,” Cruz said.
Cruz, the third baseman called up from Triple-A Albuquerque on July 3, had two hits to complete a productive series. He was 6 for 11 (.545) with two homers and a double.
Cruz said hitting homers in back-to-back games “is crazy.”
“I feel good,” he said. “I’ve been working a lot and I thank God they gave me the opportunity to prove what I can do, and I think I’m doing a good job.”
Cruz gave the Dodgers a scare when he left the game with an apparent leg injury in the seventh. He said he slowed when he felt a cramp starting and should not miss any time.
“I’m very happy the initial evaluation was a cramp,” said bench coach Trey Hillman, who filled in as manager Don Mattingly completed a two-game suspension for excessive arguing with plate umpire Angel Campos in Thursday’s 10-6 loss in Pittsburgh.
Mark Ellis drove in four runs and A.J. Ellis had three hits and scored a run.
Billingsley (10-9) gave up three hits in seven innings, striking out four and walking two. He is 6-0 since the All-Star break after losing five straight. He reached 10 wins for the sixth straight season.
The right-hander started his winning streak following his return from the disabled list with right elbow inflammation.
Billingsley is the first Dodgers pitcher to win six straight starts since Kevin Brown won seven straight in 2003.
Hillman said Billingsley is proving the sore elbow caused his struggles earlier in the season.
“You watch his outings, and everyone who has seen him since then would have to say there was something to that,” Hillman said. “He was just outstanding.”
Ronald Belisario and Scott Elbert each pitched a perfect inning to complete the shutout.
The Dodgers return home to open a series Monday night against San Francisco for the NL West lead.
Los Angeles took two of three to end Atlanta’s streak of seven straight series wins. The Braves head to Washington to begin a three-game set against the NL East-leading Nationals.
Cruz homered deep into the left-field seats in the fifth off Mike Minor (6-10) for a 1-0 lead. Cruz hit one of the Dodgers’ four homers in their 6-2 win over the Braves on Saturday night.
Minor allowed one run on five hits and no walks in seven innings. He hasn’t allowed more than three runs in his last eight starts, but he has three straight losses.
Chad Durbin walked pinch-hitter Juan Uribe to start the eighth. Uribe moved to third on Shane Victorino’s hit-and-run single to left and scored when a flyball hit by Mark Ellis dropped in front of right fielder Jason Heyward for a single. Heyward lost the ball in the sun even though he was wearing sunglasses.
Heyward said the ball kept falling away from him and remained directly in the sun.
“I tried to stay on it as long as I could but it kept going the other way,” Heyward said.
Heyward lost another ball in the sun in the ninth, giving A.J. Ellis a double off Cristhian Martinez. Pinch-hitter Adam Kennedy followed with a bloop single to left between shortstop Paul Janish and left fielder Reed Johnson.
Cristhian Martinez walked Victorino to load the bases. Mark Ellis followed with his three-run double down the left-field line.
“I can’t explain it to you,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Heyward’s struggles in the field. “We lost two balls in the sun.
“When you give a team outs or opportunities with balls in the sun or losing fly balls and that kind of stuff or walking people, it seems like it’s written in the rule book someplace that sooner or later somebody’s going to hit a ball in the gap. And that’s what they did.”
There was sarcastic applause from the crowd of 26,798 when Heyward caught Kemp’s flyball for the second out of the ninth.
Heyward tripled with two outs in the fourth for Atlanta’s first hit. Billingsley walked Freddie Freeman before Dan Uggla popped out.
The Braves’ only other scoring opportunity against Billingsley came when Michael Bourn singled with one out in the sixth, stole second and moved to third on Martin Prado’s grounder. Heyward struck out to end the inning, and then tossed his bat and helmet in frustration.
Braves catcher Brian McCann was 0 for 3 after sitting out two straight games. He said Saturday he has a cyst and a frayed labrum in his right shoulder but can play through the discomfort. He is hitting only .103 (4 for 39) in August and .227 overall.
NOTES: Elbert was activated from the 15-day DL. The Dodgers optioned utilityman Elian Herrera to Triple-A Albuquerque. Elbert had been out since July 26 with left elbow inflammation. … Braves SS Andrelton Simmons, on the 15-day DL since July 13 with a broken right little finger, still hasn’t been cleared for baseball activities. … RHP Tim Hudson will look for his 13th win when he faces Washington’s Jordan Zimmermann on Monday night. Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw will face the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner on Monday night.