Braves right fielder Jose Costanza slides home safely past the tag attempt… (Joe Murphy / Getty Images )
Reporting from Atlanta — Aaron Miles was noticeably downcast standing in front of his locker.
A split-second lapse in judgment by Miles in the seventh inning might have cost the Dodgers the game on Sunday, as they blew a three-run lead in that inning and went on to fall to the Atlanta Braves, 4-3. That was bad enough.
But what made the third baseman's errant throw on a rushed double-play attempt particularly painful was that it might have compromised Clayton Kershaw's candidacy for the Cy Young Award. Kershaw wasn't saddled with the loss but remained a victory short of Ian Kennedy's National League-leading 18 wins.
"I think he's the man; he should be winning it," Miles said. "I didn't help his chances today."
Although the Dodgers have won 11 of their last 13 games, they are nowhere near contending for a playoff berth. Aside from offering players a platform they could use to secure work for next season, their remaining games are important only because they can influence who wins the sport's most prestigious awards.
Matt Kemp, who is in contention for the most-valuable-player award, hit his 32nd home run.
"We'd like Matty to win the MVP; we'd like Kersh to win the Cy Young," Miles said.
While the Dodgers scored three runs on Kemp's third-inning blast against Braves starter Randall Delgado, the home team was held by Kershaw to four hits in the first six innings.
But consecutive one-out singles by Alex Gonzalez and Jack Wilson put men on the corners in the seventh inning.
That was when Jose Constanza hit a ball sharply at Miles.
"You want to turn two, get off the field with the score still 3-0," Miles said.
The thoughts were costly.
Because Constanza is fast, Miles said, he rushed his throw to second base. But in doing so, he delivered the ball to second baseman Justin Sellers before he could reach the bag.
Gonzalez scored. Wilson was safe at second. Constanza was on first.
"A slight little hesitation by me, letting Sellers get closer to the bag, and the throw isn't a bad throw," Miles said. "We get at least one out there."
Kershaw threw a wild pitch to pinch-hitter Brooks Conrad that allowed Wilson to advance to third and Constanza to second. Conrad singled to center to drive both of them in. The score was tied, 3-3.
Kershaw was prevented from becoming the Dodgers' first 18-game winner since Chan Ho Park in 2000.
Blake Hawksworth served up a ninth-inning single to Martin Prado that drove in Constanza and decided the game.
If Kershaw was bothered by the outcome, he didn't show it.
"I definitely felt like I had better stuff today," he said. "Some of the better stuff I've had all year."
Kershaw said he was particularly pleased with how he didn't walk any batters. He struck out 10.
Kershaw was charged with two earned runs in seven innings, and his earned-run average remained at 2.45, second-best in the National League behind Johnny Cueto's 2.29. Fellow Cy Young Award candidate Roy Halladay is at 2.49.