Dodgers can't press their advantage
October, 4, 2013
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com
ATLANTA -- The Los Angeles Dodgers went into Friday night feeling as good as you can about a five-game playoff series, having won a game on the road with their ace, and with their other ace taking the mound intent on snuffing out the Atlanta Braves' hopes.
But there's no such thing as certainty in October, and the Braves took some of the strut out of the Dodgers' step with a 4-3 win in Game 2 at Turner Field on Friday night.
It was a frustrating night for the Dodgers, who couldn't get the key hit and watched Atlanta snatch the momentum of the series and put pressure on Game 3 starter Hyun-Jin Ryu. Jason Heyward came up with the big late hit for the Braves, lining a Paco Rodriguez pitch into center field to drive in two runs in the seventh.
The moments leading to that hit will draw unwanted scrutiny to Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. He intentionally walked pinch hitter Reed Johnson to get a matchup of the lefty Rodriguez versus Heyward, the rare left-handed hitter who hit better against lefties (.264) than righties (.250) this season. Prior to this year, Heyward struggled against lefties.
That proved to be the pivotal inning. The Dodgers can only hope it was pivotal for the game, not the series.
In the top half, one Atlanta pitcher made a fielding miscue to open the door for the Dodgers and another slammed it shut. Pinch hitter Michael Young beat out an infield single when Luis Ayala missed the bag covering first, but Carl Crawford hit a one-hop grounder to lefty Luis Avilan, who spun and threw on the money to second base. Andrelton Simmons completed the high-difficulty double play.
It was the third crushing double play the Dodgers hit into, part of the reason they outhit Atlanta 10-6 and still lost.
Hanley Ramirez hit a two-run home run off David Carpenter in the eighth inning to put pressure on Atlanta, but Craig Kimbrel came in and got a four-out save to close it out for Atlanta. Pinch runner Dee Gordon got thrown out attempting to steal second base in the ninth, one more frustration for the Dodgers in a game filled with them.
Zack Greinke was making his first postseason start in two years and he looked more comfortable than he did in 2011. In fact, at times he cruised, giving up only four hits in six innings.
But the Braves scored a couple of runs to get their first lead of the series. Simmons doubled over Yasiel Puig's head to drive in Evan Gattis with a run in the second inning and, with two outs in the fourth, Chris Johnson singled to left to bring in Freddie Freeman.
The Dodgers had chances against lefty Mike Minor but hit into rally-killing double plays in the second and third innings. Their only run off Minor came on Ramirez's slicing double into the right-field corner to score Mark Ellis in the first inning.
Puig hustled out an infield single to put runners at the corners with two outs in the sixth, but Juan Uribe swung at an ankle-high slider to strike out.