The only thing keeping Don Mattingly from flashing another bunt sign is the lack of a fourth base. What else might do the trick? Carpal tunnel, perhaps. A straightjacket. And Juan Uribe. The wonderful and powerful Juan Uribe.
See also: Dodgers Beat Atlanta to Head to NLCS.
Forced to sacrifice two strikes, Uribe launched a booming eighth inning two-run home run deep into the Los Angeles bullpen, turning a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 lead, and three Kenley Jansen outs later, the Dodgers were one step closer to their first World Series in a quarter of a century.
I didn't like the Clayton-Kershaw-pitching-on-three-days-rest idea, but OK. Didn't like pulling at Kersh at 91 pitches, but fine. Really didn't like pulling him for Ronald Belisario, almost cost them the game, but OK. Really, really, really didn't like the Uribe sacrifice decision (hated it, wanted to strangle the manager), but OK. Dodgers win, Braves go home losers, and that's what matters.
Rarely has so much first guessing, second guessing and head scratching been directed at a winning manager after a postseason series, but such is life for Donnie Baseball circa 2013. My guess is, he'll trade the criticism for a ring without a second's hesitation if that's what's on the table. And it just might be.
The Dodgers were baseball's first team to clinch a division, they are first to advance to a League Championship Series, their National League Division Series ("NLDS B," as it's called officially) is history, Los Angeles over Atlanta three games to one, and all that is to be determined is an opponent for the NLCS, which begins Friday in one region of the country or another.
If the Cardinals beat the Pirates in Game 5 of the NLDS in St. Louis tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. on TBS, the Dodgers open the NLCS in St. Louis Friday night 5:00-ish, also on TBS. Bucs win and L.A. gets home field, with Games 1 and 2 at Dodger Stadium Friday and Saturday night. In the second scenario, Games 3, 4 and 5 (if necessary) would be played in Pittsburgh October 14 to 16, with Games 6 and 7 (if necessary) back at Chavez Ravine October 18 and 19. The World Series begins October 23 in the home of the American League Champion.
Los Angeles heroes in the deciding game and in the NLDS are many. Somewhat lost in the Uribephoria was Carl Crawford, who hit two majestic homers of his own Monday night, giving the Dodgers leads of 1-0 and 2-0 by the third inning. Crawford hit .353 in the series, with three homers and five RBIs.
Hanley Ramirez hit an even .500 in the NLDS, with four doubles, a home run and six RBIs. Yasiel Puig, whose ringing double preceded Uribe's homer, rallied his team throughout the series and recorded a .471 average. Uribe hit two homers and managed a .375. A.J. Ellis caught every pitch of the series and hit .333. Adrian Gonzalez was good for a homer, four RBIs and a .333.
Skip Schumaker played every inning in place of Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, making all the plays, adding three hits to the Dodgers' cause.
Kershaw pitched 13 innings in the opening and closing games, allowed one earned run on six hits, while striking out 18. Chris Capuano, J.P. Howell, Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen contributed incredibly clutch relief work, with an earned run average of 0.00 between them. Individually too.
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Meanwhile, the poor Braves did what the Braves do, making an immediate exit from the postseason, unable to advance past a wild card game or an NLDS once again, as in 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2010 and 2012 before. Add 2013 to the list and watch as Atlanta skipper Fredi Gonzalez gets hammered by his critics, and perhaps even sacrificed by his employers.
There's that word again. Sacrifice. But OK, fine. Mattingly and his Dodgers are winners for today, for tomorrow, at least through mid-October and hopefully right on through to Halloween, the night a potential World Series Game 7 is scheduled.
Costume suggestions? How does World Champions of Major League Baseball sound to you?