Dodgers Celebrate NLDS Victory Despite Bad Plays and Bad Calls
The stench of champagne hits you like a ton of bricks when you step into the Dodger clubhouse. The team is allowed to celebrate 10 minutes before the media horde enters.
And by horde, I do mean horde. It seemed like some media guys were more anxious to get into the champagne and shower bath than the players were. There was the GoPro cam strapped to a head. There were the television cameras wrapped in plastic. There were the suited television guys draping themselves in plastic ponchos.
The media horde entered in the middle of the celebration into the chaos after the Dodger 4-3 come-from-behind win. Amazingly enough there were still champagne bottles to be popped before they had to resort to beer. Yasiel Puig did his best to get as many print media as he could, but most of the players were oblivious to it all. They were just focused on one another, the teammates who helped them get through the 162-game regular season and the four games of the NL Divisional Series.
This was a celebration that didn't look like was going to happen. Not when the Dodgers were trailing 3-2 going into the eighth inning against the best bullpen in the Majors during the regular season.
"We had the right guy out there," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said about having David Carpenter on the mound in the eighth to get to closer Craig Kimbrel in the ninth. "We had it set up to bring [Kimbrel] to four outs. I think six outs was something we weren't even talking about in the dugout."
Yasiel Puig led off the eighth inning for the Dodgers with a double down the right field line. Then came Juan Uribe and the decision to have him lay down a bunt. With six outs left manager Don Mattingly was willing to give away an out to get a guy already in scoring position to even more scoring position, I suppose.
The first couple of bunts were awful to put it mildly. "Why am I bunting him," Mattingly said he questioned while seeing this unfold before his eyes. Fortunately with two outs the bunt sign was taken off, although sometimes you can't be sure with this coaching staff. After taking two pitches... well you know.
"This moment today, I'll never forget," Uribe said. "I feel good for myself. I feel good for my teammates. We wanted the win today."
Mattingly was happy to his strategy foiled. "I'm thinking playoffs are so stupid, aren't they? Just crazy."
I'm still partially deaf from hearing the sellout crowd of 54,438 scream when the ball bounced into the Dodger bullpen.
"This guy brings people together," A.J. Ellis said. "He's such a good person in here. He takes care of all of us. I'm so happy for him. He deserved this night. He deserved this moment."
After spending a good chunk of 2012 being booed mercilessly by the Dodger crowd with a .191 batting average, this has been quite the transformative season for Uribe batting .278 this season and .375 in four games this NLDS.
"I know how I can hit the ball, and I can win the game," Uribe said.
The other curious decision by Mattingly was taking Clayton Kershaw out after six innings and 91 pitches. After the Dodgers announced Kershaw was starting in place of Ricky Nolasco at 12:25 this afternoon, Mattingly said, "It's about winning today." Kershaw had only made 12 pitches in the sixth inning to retire the side in order. It didn't look like his arm was tiring.
"If we don't know it's three days rest, we don't take him out there because A.J.'s like he's good," Mattingly said despite agreeing with A.J.'s assessment.
The only trouble Kershaw got into came at the hands of his defense in the fourth inning. There was the errant throw by Adrian Gonzalez on Evan Gattis' double play ball, his second of the game, and a bad throw by Mark Ellis on Andrelton Simmons' double play ball allowed the Braves to tie the game 2-2. Both runs were unearned.
The first of Gonzalez's error came on the second pitch of the game, a Jason Heyward grounder to first that he booted. It was the first time since April 18, 2009 Gonzalez has made two errors in one game. Kershaw needed 14 more pitches to wiggle out of the inning.
"We talked about it before the game, we were just going to have to make the decision and not allow him to go too far because he was not going to come out of that game if you asked him," Mattingly said.
"You don't ever want to come out of a game," Kershaw said. "You don't ever want to not pitch."
For Kershaw, the three-day rest issue that us media wonks tend to harp on was a non-issue for him. "This is the postseason," he said. "I don't want to take it for granted. I might never get to do this again."
Kershaw even said he would pitch tomorrow if needed because it's the postseason. "It doesn't matter. You just go. It's a one-month sprint, and I'm looking forward to the next couple of games."
The early heroics of the game were provided by Carl Crawford who hit two homers including his first playoff leadoff homer in the first inning. Before the sloppy play and the questionable decisions, it really looked like Crawford would provide all the magic necessary needed to complete this story.
Fortunately the Dodgers summoned the magic elsewhere, and they continue on to their 10th NL Championship Series against either the St. Louis Cardinals or Pittsburgh Pirates. The Dodgers live for another day.