LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers bet on a pair of aces, but then went out and nearly wasted one of their bullets.
The man they call "Papi" made sure this postseason wasn't remembered for a debatable decision and some ill-timed mistakes. Juan Uribe couldn't get an eighth-inning sacrifice bunt down, but he more than made up for that by launching a two-run home run to send the Dodgers into the National League Championship Series with a stunning 4-3 win over the Atlanta Braves Monday night.
Just as they clinched a playoff berth at the end of September, the Dodgers are the first team in the major leagues to advance to the next round.
Much of the game was a frustrating grind for the Dodgers, but it ended with a sold-out crowd rocking Dodger Stadium, more than 54,000 people jumping up and down in unison for the final two innings. After Kenley Jansen struck out the side in the ninth inning to nail it down, Dodgers players from the dugout and bullpen swarmed the mound.
Blue and silver streamers poured down from the upper deck. Unlike their last celebration party, which started in an Arizona pool, the Dodgers were able to celebrate this one with their fans.
In his first career start on three days’ rest, Clayton Kershaw did all the Dodgers could have asked, allowing only two unearned runs over six innings, striking out six on a manageable pitch count of 91.
But his infielders let him down. Kershaw looked a bit peeved after Adrian Gonzalez’s first-inning error, which foreshadowed his mood the rest of the evening while watching his infielders work. Gonzalez muffed Jason Heyward’s chopper near the first-base line. By the time he scrambled and threw the ball to Kershaw, Heyward was well down the line. Kershaw snatched the ball out of the air with his bare hand.
That was only the beginning of the adventures for the Dodgers’ infield and the beginning of the extra work Kershaw had to put in.
Gonzalez made a bad throw for his second error in the fourth to usher in two unearned runs. It was kind of a two-way error, because Hanley Ramirez was late covering second, which threw off the timing. OK, maybe a three-way error, because Gonzalez could have gotten an easy out and still had a chance at a double play if he had simply run 10 feet and stepped on first base before throwing.
The Dodgers could have gotten out of it with a 2-1 lead, but Mark Ellis made a bad throw trying to finish off a double play three batters later. Normally, Gonzalez and Ellis are among the steadiest defenders at their positions.
Veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia kept all Dodgers not named Carl Crawford off-balance for six innings. On the other hand, Crawford was perfectly balanced in launching a pair of solo home runs in the first and third innings, his second and third home runs of the series.
Garcia spent most of this season in the minor leagues, but he did his best to rescue the Braves’ season by pitching six strong innings. The Dodgers had eight hits off him, but they couldn’t come up with clutch hits, a stark contrast to Sunday night’s 13-6 win.