And to think that it all could have backfired on Don Mattingly…
Starting Clayton Kershaw on three days’ rest.
Juan Uribe botching a bunt before hitting the game – and series – winning two-run homer in the eighth inning.
As Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times said, it was a gamble; if Kershaw hadn’t pitched as well as he did, scattering three hits and two unearned runs over six innings, and if Uribe hadn’t blasted that home run down the left field foul line, who knows?
Maybe we all would be speculating the possibility of Game Five in Atlanta being a job-saving affair for the Dodgers’ manager.
It was certainly possible after L.A.’s two errors in the fourth tied the game at two, the Braves taking the lead in the seventh after a triple and a pinch-hit single.
Thank goodness no one has to worry about that, however, as 54, 438 delirious blue-clad fans saw the Dodgers use Uribe’s bomb and Carl Crawford‘s two solo home runs to beat the Atlanta Braves, 4-3, ending their season and sending L.A. to its first National League Championship Series since 2009.
The fans who stayed after the triumph were rewarded with the players taking a victory lap around Dodger Stadium and exchanging high-fives.
Talk about fan appreciation – I wish I was there for that!
In winning this division series three games to one, so many Dodgers need to be given credit that it’s a good thing that there’s no Most Valuable Player award; here are just a few heroes – in addition to Uribe and Kershaw, of course:
Crawford’s two homers pushed his series total to three, which was two more than the entire Braves team, while batting .353 to boot.
Yasiel Puig was his usual spectacular self, his double in the eighth setting the table for Uribe’s heroics and finishing the four games against Atlanta with a .471 average.
Kershaw became the first pitcher in ten years to pitch at least six innings on three days rest in the postseason and not given up a run. The last pitcher to do that? Josh Beckett (does anyone remember that he’s currently a Dodger?) in the 2003 World Series when he was a Florida Marlin.
Oh, by the way, the left-hander sported an earned run average of 0.69.
If there was a series MVP, Hanley Ramirez would share it with Uribe and Crawford as all the shortstop did was hit .500 and lead the Dodgers with six RBI’s as well as tied for the team lead in hits (along with Puig) with eight.
Commented Mattingly among all the champagne in the clubhouse, “I feel it’s another step (as far as the wins needed for a title). In the beginning you talk about 11 victories or a championship. Now you talk about eight.”
The next four wins among those eight will be against either the Pittsburgh Pirates or the St. Louis Cardinals, who will play Game Five of their division series on Wednesday night.
If the Cardinals win, the Dodgers will begin the National League Championship Series in St. Louis on Friday night. If the Pirates triumph, Game One of the NLCS will be at Dodger Stadium, likewise on Friday night.
While the players predictably don’t care who they’ll play – Ramirez said, “We’ve just got to stay ready for anybody.” – I personally prefer to see the Pirates as I feel the Dodgers match up a little better with the wild card winners.
Plus L.A. would have home field advantage.
But as Ramirez said, if the Dodgers are to make their first World Series in 25 years, they need to be prepared to face, and beat, either team.
In the meantime, I’ll join the millions of other Dodger fans in celebrating and enjoying this triumph.