By Steven Lieberman
It’s been four long years, but the Dodgers have finally clinched another best-of-five National League Division Series to advance to the NL Championship Series.
Juan Uribe’s two-run bomb in the bottom of the eighth inning that landed in the Dodgers left-field bullpen sealed the deal with a 4-3 win over the Atlanta Braves.
Dodger fans got so excited, all 54,438 started to chant the Braves “Indian” mantra with the tomahawk chop after Uribe’s blast.
The pitcher credited with the win was Uribe’s former Giants closer-sensation Brian “The Beard” Wilson, who pitched a scoreless eighth inning after ace starter Clayton Kershaw pitched six innings on only three days’ rest. Closer Kenley Jansen struck out the side in the ninth and was credited with the save, which has seemingly become automatic.
What made Uribe’s home run even more interesting was that manager Don Mattingly employed the bunt strategy to attempt to move Yasiel Puig over to third from second base -- after his clutch double -- to get him in a better scoring position.
“Why am I bunting him? That’s what I thought at first,” Mattingly confessed. “But really, I’m thinking of shooting the ball to the right side, moving a runner over, driving him in and the next thing you know, as soon as he hit it, I knew it was gone.”
So it’s a good thing that Uribe wasn’t able to get the bunt down after two failed attempts.
“It was a good moment for me,” said Uribe, who played a big part in the Giants winning the World Series in 2010. “It was a good moment for doing my job. This is what I tell my teammates. A lot of people want to be in the moment that we have right now. And this moment we’ll never forget.”
Carl Crawford’s two homers also didn’t hurt the cause for the Dodgers, hitting a leadoff homer and then another in the third inning. The fans requested a curtain call after the second and he didn’t disappoint.
Kershaw, who was congratulated in the clubhouse after the game by the legendary Sandy Koufax, became the first starter on three days’ rest in the postseason to work six innings without allowing an earned run since Andy Pettitte and Josh Beckett in 2003.
“If Donnie wanted me to pitch tomorrow, I would,” said Kershaw. “This is the postseason. All that other stuff, the preparation, is he going to be ready, is your arm going to be tired? Throw that out the window. It doesn’t matter. You just go.”
The decision to lift Kershaw after six innings was made after Mattingly and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt spoke with Kershaw on the bench.
“We felt like he did his job,” Mattingly said. “He stated his case to stay in, but Rick and I talked before the game and we knew we’d have to make the decision and pull the trigger. It wasn’t easy.
“ On short rest, he couldn’t do anything more. You’ve got to do the right thing for Clayton. You’ve got to do the best thing for your ballclub.”
So the corks were popped, the champagne flowed and the Dodger players celebrated inside the clubhouse and out on the field with the remaining fans. They let this one “soak in” for a few moments as they awaited the winner of the Cardinals and Pirates series.