Braves edge Dodgers in Game 2
Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons tags out Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon on a stolen base attempt during Game 2 of their National League Division Series at Turner Field in Atlanta, Oct. 4, 2013. (DANIEL SHIREY/USA Today)
If the Atlanta Braves were looking for inspiration Friday night, it arrived hours before the start of Game 2 against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
After being spanked 6-1 in the opener late Thursday night, the Braves could take inspiration from the Pittsburgh Pirates, who after being hammered 9-1 in their opener Thursday, bounced back with a convincing 7-1 thrashing of the St. Louis Cardinals to even their series.
Then again, the Pirates didn’t have to face Zack Greinke.
The Braves, though, had an ‘ace’ of their own up their sleeve in the form of 25-year-old lefty Mike Minor.
The ‘Minor Miracle’ did occur this night as the Braves dug deep and gutted out a 4-3 victory over Greinke to tie their best-of-five division series at a game apiece.
Games 3 and 4 will take place Sunday and Monday, respectively, in Los Angeles.
Making his first career post-season start a memorable one, Minor held the Dodgers to one run as he scattered eight hits, walked one and struck out five over 6.1 innings.
“Yeah, that’s huge,” Minor said of the win. “We even it up, we go to LA. Obviously, it’s going to be tougher over there. But it’s a big win. We really needed it. We needed to even it up. We’re going into the next game feeling good.”
Minor showed a lot of guts when after allowing a run in the first he blanked the Dodgers over his next 5.1 innings.
“Usually when he settles down like that he’s going to give you a good opportunity, he really is and that’s something that he’s getting better at,” Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He’s maturing as a pitcher. I thought he was terrific, I really do.”
Offensively, Jason Heyward came through with a clutch hit in the seventh for Atlanta when, with two out and the bases loaded, he drilled a two-run single through the box to pad the Braves lead to 4-1.
They would need it as Hanley Ramirez drilled a two-run home run in the eighth to make it a nail-biter at the end.
“I mean the top, for right now the top,” Heyward said when asked where that hit rates in his career. “This is the moment. This is all I can control. Anything that already happened and whatever is going to happen next, I have no control over. So tonight’s game was a lot of fun. We want to be in those situations to come through big for your team.”
With two out in the eighth, Fredi Gonzalez brought in his great closer Craig Kimbrel — 50 saves this season — for the final four outs.
In the ninth, though, a controversial call went the Braves way. With one out, pinch-runner Dee Gordon appeared to beat the throw to second but was called out by umpire Bill Miller.
The victory was just the sixth for the Braves in their last 21 post-season home games dating back to 2000.
The Braves knew the importance of the task at hand. With a second loss they’d be staring at a three-and-done scenario with the next two games out in LA.
“It’s huge,” Kimbrel said of the win. “Nobody wanted to go out to LA down two games. 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. That’s what it came down to.”
Once the game started, the worst possible scenario for the Braves took place as three batters into the affair they found themselves trailing, which immediately put them behind the 8-ball and momentarily, took the crowd out of it early.
With one out, Mark Ellis got it going with a walk and Ramirez followed by slicing a 2-2 pitch from Minor into the right-field corner, Ellis scoring standing up all the way from first.
In the second inning, though, the Braves’ Evan Gattis led off with a single to left, moved to second on a ground out and with two out, scored on a bullet to right off the bat of Andrelton SImmons.
The Braves took the lead for the first time in the series in the fourth.
Freeman opened with a double off the wall in right, moved to third on a ground out and with two out, Chris Johnson pulled a grounder between third and short into left field for a go-ahead single, putting Atlanta up 2-1.
It was a call that didn’t go the Dodgers’ way.
In the ninth inning after A.J. Ellis walked with one out, speedster Dee Gordon came in to pinch run with pinch-hitter Andre Ethier at the plate.
With Braves closer Craig Kimbrel slow to the plate, Gordon took off to try and move into scoring position. The throw from catcher Gerald Laird was a bit low and slightly off the bag but it was picked out of the dirt by shortstop Andre Simmons, who applied the tag.
Gordon appeared safe and replays showed he was, but second base ump Bill Miller called him out and what might have been evaporated right there. Carl Crawford would end the game by strking out.
Afterwards, it was two teams with two views.
Said Laird: “That was a big throw, being able to get two out with nobody on. I knew he was going to run. Craig isn’t the quickest to the plate but he has an electric fastball that sort of catches up. I was able to get rid of it quickly and Simmons was able to dig it out and make the play.”
Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly saw it differently.
“It looks safe from our point of view,” he said. “Just looks like Dee gets there before the ball gets there. And I know that our replays feel like they’re fairly clear, but I’m sure other people see it another way.”
Having looked at the replay, what did he think?
“I thought he was safe,” Mattingly said.