- Molly Knight
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ATLANTA -- Dee Gordon stood at his locker, barefoot, and shook his head.
For eight innings, the Los Angeles Dodgers' diminutive backup shortstop had watched from the bench as his team came so close, so many times, to stealing Game 2 on the road from the Atlanta Braves and taking a commanding 2-0 National League Division Series lead back to Los Angeles in this best-of-five set.
Finally, when catcher A.J. Ellis walked with one out in the ninth against Atlanta's all-world closer, Craig Kimbrel, Gordon grabbed his helmet without a word and trotted onto the field, knowing it was time for him to try to steal the game himself.
The 25-year-old Gordon was perhaps the 25th man to make the Dodgers' playoff roster, officially added to the mix Thursday morning solely for his ability to outrun baseballs when his team needs it most. Gordon stole 10 bases for the Dodgers in 38 games this year, but swiped 49 bags in Triple-A Albuquerque, where he spent most of his season.
"I was out there to take the base," Gordon said. "That's my job. That's what I'm here to do." He sighed and stared down at the floor. "I felt like I had a good jump."
When ailing center fielder Andre Ethier stepped into the batter's box to pinch-hit for reliever Brian Wilson, the Dodgers were down 4-3, with Gordon representing the tying run. He took his lead as Kimbrel toed the rubber, and in the millisecond the righty reared back to throw his first pitch, Gordon was gone.
"He did everything I wanted him to do, and I took off," said Gordon. "I wasn't worried about a pitchout or anything like that. He's the closer. He's going right after the hitter."
The 160-pound Gordon got a great jump, and motored toward second, a blur in road grays. As he dove head-first into second, he appeared to beat the ball easily. But Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons scooped a short-hop throw from Gerald Laird and swiped at Gordon's rear in one motion, and the umpire called him out. The Dodgers say the replays suggested otherwise.
"We thought he was safe," said manager Don Mattingly.
"There were like 15 different angles and I was safe in all of them," said Gordon.
Simmons disagreed: "I got him on the back leg and then I got him again if he did [slide past the bag]."
After he was called out, Gordon popped up onto his feet, his mouth open wide in disbelief. "I felt him hit my foot, and that's really late," he said. "I was all over the base at that point."
Should the Dodgers lose this series, the play will be scrutinized even more. Instead of having one out and a runner on second against Kimbrel, the Dodgers found themselves with two out and none on. After Ethier walked, Kimbrel struck out left fielder Carl Crawford to end the game.
Ellis, who had not yet seen the replays, tried to give perspective afterward.
"It's a game of human decision and human error," he said. "You've just gotta roll with it and get ready to come back Sunday."
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