In Game 2 of the best of five series, an intentional walk at the bottom of the seventh inning with a bases-loaded would be all Atlanta Braves outfielder Jason Heyward needed to drop the Dodgers 4-3, tying the series 1-1 heading to Los Angeles.
Thursday night, Dodgers’ Cy Young Award candidate Clayton Kershaw pitched flawlessly in Los Angeles’ 6-1 victory over Atlanta, only allowing one run along with 12 strike outs to take the 1-0 lead in the series.
Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez decided to do a little research going into Game 2 by switching up the strategy against LA.
The Dodgers had been vulnerable this year against left handed pitchers, so a change in pitching styles for Atlanta to Mike Minor (13-9, 3.21 ERA on the season) worked in their favor.
Minor went 1-0 in two starts against the Dodgers this year, with a 2.25 ERA, and he gave Los Angeles trouble again Friday, showing that he can play in the big games. He pitched six innings and only allowed one run off of eight hits.
“Initially we wanted to win the first game, but I don’t think anybody came into this game thinking we were going to lose again,” Minor said. “We all felt good going into the game, relaxed, had a good vibe in the clubhouse prior to the game, and now we’re feeling really good after this win.”
Although, a lefty pitcher may have signaled trouble for the Dodgers, they had Zack Greinke to counter the opposition.
Greinke (15-4) posted a 1.58 ERA in the last two months of the regular season, second in the MLB only to his teammate, Kershaw’s ERA of 1.55 mark.
Through six innings, Greinke allowed two runs, four hits and three strike outs ending the evening with a 3.00 ERA.
The early lead went to Los Angeles after Dodger shortstop Hanley Ramirez hit a RBI double in the first inning to get the game started.
Atlanta replied back in the bottom of second inning with after shortstop Andrelton Simmons hit an RBI double to score Evan Gattis, evening the score.
Chris Johnson’s two-out single to left field would give the Braves their first lead of the series in the bottom of fourth inning when his RBI scored first basemen Freddie Freeman.
The atmosphere within Turner Field became electrified going in the seventh.
Luis Avilan was brought in to relieve Minor, but it would be the third double play of the night turned by the Braves that shifted all the momentum Atlanta’s way.
Dodgers leadoff batter and left fielder Carl Crawford grounded out to Atlanta’s Simmons who then threw out Los Angeles’ Michael Young at second.
“Any time you get a double play like that, that kind of kills any momentum on the other side,” Jason Heyward told the Atlanta Daily World. “The name of the game in the playoffs to me is keep runs off the board, put zeros up in innings and don’t let the other team score.
“To be able to put on extra insurance runs late in the game, that’s huge when you play some defense like that, help your pitchers get out of innings.”
Atlanta began to throw everything except the kitchen sink at Los Angeles entering the game’s final moments. Leading off in the seventh inning, Chris Johnson’s bat broke into pieces while hammering a single.
The complete game changer came at the bottom of the inning with the bases loaded, two outs and Jason Heyward at bat.
Off a 2-2 count, Heyward would hit a line drive down center field bringing in Justin Upton and Johnson.
The play would not have been possible unless Dodgers pitcher Chris Withrow had not decided to intentionally walk ex-Dodger Reed Johnson, allowing a better hitter in Heyward to come to the plate and place the dagger.
A perfect 8th inning from Dodgers closer Brian Wilson, quieted the crowd slightly going into the ninth, but next on the mound was one of the league’s best closers, Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel.
Kimbrel previously only had one multi-inning appearance all year before Friday’s game. The closer obtained his second four-out save this season.
“Nobody wanted to go out to LA down two games,” Kimbrel said. “Tonight was huge in our minds. We knew we were going to have a tough game ahead of us, our guys showed up, played hard, and we got some big hits tonight.
“That’s what it came down to. We’re going out to LA, and hopefully we can keep that momentum going.”
Game 3 of the NLDS will be held Sunday, October 6 in Los Angeles. Atlanta’s Julio Teheran (14-8, 3.21 ERA) will face off against Hyun-Jin-Ryu (14-8, 3.00).