The Sports Xchange
By Joe Haakenson, The Sports Xchange
Uribe’s late blast sends Dodgers into NLCS
LOS ANGELES — Juan Uribe can’t bunt, but the Los Angeles Dodgers don’t mind.
After failing to get down a sacrifice bunt, Uribe worked his way back from an 0-2 count and hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning Monday, lifting the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 4-3 win over the Atlanta Braves and a three-games-to-one victory in the National League Division Series.
The Dodgers advance to the NL Championship Series, where they will meet the Pirates or the Cardinals. Pittsburgh plays at St. Louis in Game 5 of the other NLDS on Wednesday. Game 1 of the NLCS will be Friday in St. Louis or Los Angeles.
Thanks to a pinch-hit RBI single by Jose Constanza in the seventh inning, the Braves led 3-2 going into the eighth inning. Yasiel Puig doubled off Braves reliever David Carpenter (0-1) to start the inning, bringing up Uribe, who fouled off his first two bunt attempts.
With the count 2-2, Uribe crushed a pitch from Carpenter, driving it into the Dodgers bullpen in left field and sending the sellout crowd at Dodger Stadium into a frenzy.
“We want to get the game back tied,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said when asked about his decision to have Uribe bunt. “But it worked out good. That’s what I get for trying to bunt him. I set him up.”
Uribe, who had just three sacrifice bunts all season, didn’t disagree with Mattingly’s decision to bunt.
“You know, when they gave me the bunt sign, I’m thinking this is a good time to have a bunt, and I had to bunt and I had to try,” he said. “I’m thinking, hey, I need to do this thing and move the runner.”
Uribe’s heroics helped Mattingly avoid second-guessers questioning the decision to send Clayton Kershaw to the mound on three days’ rest. Kershaw gave up two unearned runs in six innings, and he left with the game tied at 2.
“We felt like he did his job,” Mattingly said of taking Kershaw out after 91 pitches. “He will never say (he wants to exit the game), but I just felt it wasn’t fair for him to go back out there. This was one of those games where we were just going to have to make the decision and pull the trigger. It wasn’t easy to pull him out, but on short rest, he couldn’t do anything more.”
Kershaw handed the ball over to the bullpen to start the seventh inning, and the Braves swiftly took advantage of his absence.
Elliot Johnson was 0-for-12 in the series when he came to the plate with one out and the bases empty. He ripped a line drive into the right field corner off Ronald Belisario. Puig had trouble tracking down the ball, and Johnson cruised into third with a standup triple.
Constanza followed with a single to center field, breaking the tie and putting the Braves’ bullpen in a position to close out the win.
“You don’t want it to ever end the way we ended today,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “But we had the right guy out there. (Carpenter) has been good for us. There is nothing to be ashamed of.
“To end the way it did tonight, it’s going to hurt. It’s going to be a long way back. But tip your hat to the Dodgers and congratulate Donnie and his staff. The sad thing is there are no more games, you know?”
Braves starter Freddy Garcia pitched well, allowing two runs on two solo homers by Carl Crawford.
Kershaw allowed just three hits, two of them by Chris Johnson, who added a third hit in the eighth inning.
After Belisario got just one out, J.P. Howell finished the seventh inning. Brian Wilson (1-0) pitched around two hits in the eighth, and Kenley Jansen struck out all three batters he faced in the ninth for the save.
Crawford hit his first home run leading off the bottom of the first, becoming the first Dodger to lead off a postseason game with a homer since Davey Lopes did it in Game 6 of the 1978 World Series against the New York Yankees. He went deep again in the third, golfing a low-and-inside fastball by Garcia and hitting it just inside the right field foul pole for a 2-0 Dodgers lead.
The Braves tied the game in the fourth on Johnson’s RBI single and a run-scoring grounder from Andrelton Simmons.
NOTES: The decision to start Kershaw on three days’ rest was done “by committee,” according to Mattingly. GM Ned Colletti and his staff were in on the talks late Sunday night, but the most important voice was Kershaw’s himself, Mattingly said. … Gonzalez said he never considered pitching his ace, RHP Kris Medlen. on three days’ rest, even after hearing about the Dodgers’ decision to go with Kershaw. He saved Medlen for a potential Game 5 that will not take place. … The last Dodgers starter to pitch on three days’ rest in a postseason game was RHP Derek Lowe, who started Game 4 of the NLCS against the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008. Lowe allowed two runs on five hits but left after five innings and 74 pitches. The Los Angeles bullpen gave up four runs in the eighth inning and lost the game 7-5.