This game’ll get you: Braves bear down on Dodgers to even NLDS

The Dodgers and the Braves were like that old joke about the two guys who were being chased by a bear, and one guy says to the other, “I don’t need to be faster than the bear – I just need to be faster than you.”

Atlanta caught and passed the Dodgers early, and then managed to stay at least one step ahead through the entire trip through the woods, leaving Los Angeles to be chewed up by defeat in Game 2 of the National League Division Series, 4-3.

Not only was the game close, it was a rare thing this postseason — the first major-league game decided by fewer than three runs since the regular season ended Sunday.

After taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning, three double plays thwarted Los Angeles in the most frustrating ways. One came after the leadoff batter reached in the second inning, and was followed by a single. Another came even though the Dodgers were doing a hit and run. And a third, most painful one came with runners on first and third and one out in the seventh.

Meanwhile, Atlanta got two-out RBI hits from Andrelton Simmons in the second and Chris Johnson in the fourth off an otherwise impressive Zack Greinke (six innings, four baserunners), then poured across two more runs in a vexing seventh inning made of the stuff that causes division-winning managers to be at the risk of losing their jobs. Just like that, the Braves had a 4-1 lead.

I could go into greater detail here about the bottom of the seventh, but I think one moment sums it up: Reed Johnson was walked intentionally to face Jason Heyward.

Mark Ellis drew his second walk of the game to start the eighth, and it was at that moment that I commented at Dodger Thoughts, “Just realized Dodgers will probably lose this game 4-3.” No sooner did that get typed than did Hanley Ramirez — who had the RBI double to score Ellis in the first and another double in the sixth — hit a down-the-line two-run homer to slice the lead back down to a run.

But Adrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig struck out, and Juan Uribe grounded out, and the Dodgers would remain behind, even after a shutout eighth inning by Brian Wilson, heading into the ninth.

Braves super-closer Craig Kimbrel, who got the final out in the eighth inning, struck out Skip Schumaker to open the final frame, but walked A.J. Ellis after being ahead in the count 1-2. Dee Gordon pinch-ran — three stolen bases from glory, right? — as Andre Ethier came up to pinch-hit. But on a pitch in the dirt, a perfect throw from backup Braves catcher Gerald Laird nailed Gordon at second base (your view of the replay might dispute this), an excruciatingly bitter pill on a night full of them.

Then Ethier walked on a 3-2 pitch (bringing us the irony of Scott Van Slyke as pinch-runner), and the angst continued for one more batter, but Carl Crawford finally struck out to finally end the game.

Even putting aside the playoff stakes, it was the most agonizing game of the year for Los Angeles.

The Dodgers will fly to Los Angeles retaining the chance to win the NLDS at home, a two-game effort beginning with Hyun-Jin Ryu in the gloaming on Sunday.

  • Guest

    Don Mattingly needs to be fired so hard that he’s not even allowed to be within 1,000 miles of Dodger Stadium or any location that the Dodgers are playing in.

  • http://www.linkmeister.com/wordpress/ Linkmeister

    Gloaming? As in The Homer in the . . . ?

  • Sandy K

    I’d really like to read what Jon has to say about the bottom of the 7th. My own view is that it illustrated what’s wrong with Mattingly’s almost mechanical, match-up mentality. He brought in a pitcher who’s had trouble getting outs (when they counted) for a month. He intentionally walked a weaker hitter to get to a better one. Result? A two-run single. Match-ups should involve more than whether someone is right-handed or left-handed, but the quality of their play and their recent records.

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      I don’t think I could tell you much you don’t already know for yourself. The only thing to add is that it would help if Withrow didn’t walk the leadoff batter.

      • Sandy K

        Very true. Walking the lead-off hitter usually means there’s heck to pay. If Mattingly is so committed to match-ups, I don’t know why he didn’t PH for Crawford in the top of the 7th to avoid the lefty v. lefty matchup. The predictable happened, not mainly because Crawford was a lefty hitting against a left-handed pitcher, but because Crawford’s best month has been April.

  • Bob_Hendley

    This is one I don’t want to mull over.

  • Spence

    Donnie was not good at all tonight.

  • Sandy K

    I guess we can also conclude that Dee Gordon is no Dave Roberts, whatever we think of the umpire’s call.

    • Bumsrap

      It looked to me that Gordon got a good jump.

  • DS1981

    There are apparently many “national” writers who don’t understand why the current dodgers ownership hasn’t yet offered Mattingly a new contract. “How can these dodgers treat a Yankee legend this way?”
    It’s gonna become pretty obvious why after these playoffs.
    It’s very rare that a baseball manager affects a game one way or another, but this year Mattingly has negatively affected more games than any dodgers manager i can remember and i’m including Davey Johnson on this list.

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      I think your memory is short. I can’t think of one Dodger manager that didn’t cause the same consternation. I mean, good heavens, have you forgotten Jim Tracy?

      • DS1981

        Tracy? From what i remember most of the consternation was about his way of talking (asking himself questions) than his game management.

        • RBI

          Tracy made some terrible decisions.

          • PismoBruce

            LaSorda pitched to Jack Clark. Now THAT was a terrible decision.

          • foul tip

            And with 1B open.

            I don’t claim to know all that much about baseball now, but way more than then.

            Even then, just as a practical matter, I wondered why pitch to a guy who could beat you with one swing when the guys behind him were very unlikely to.

            Wonder how much “FIRE LASORDA” vitriol would erupt if that were done now.

      • Bumsrap

        Tracy took a boring team and made it more boring.

  • Spence

    I feel confident the Dodgers can win game 3. Ryu should have the experience edge over Teheran. I also think the Braves really struggle vs lefties.

    • Adam Luther

      Good luck to the Braves in hitting against Ryu in the late afternoon with the shadows.

  • Adam Luther

    The Dodgers got the split on the road. Dodgers only need to win one of next two at home to “force” a game five at a minimum. A nice old school best two-of-three awaits. Somewhat crucial to win game three, then you go with Nolasco to wrap it up knowing Kershaw is in game five if necessary.

  • NoahUCLA

    I think tonight showed why letting Kershaw go 7 last night was a smart move. Donnie made mistakes in the 7th for sure, not only walking Reed but bringing in Paco to walk him (why not let Withrow walk him and let Paco come in fresh). However, this game was not Donnie’s fault by any stretch. The Dodgers hitters stunk it up except for Hanley and Withrow has to pitch better than that plain and simple. You almost get the sense that Donnie’s biggest mistake was to pinch hit for Greinke and not let him go out for the 7th, even though you’re down one with the pitcher up that late in the game. Our big time set up people, Paco, Beli and Withrow, just scare me, and I don’t think Mattingly feels great about them either. A frustrating game that may come back to be the story of our season, but it’s not Mattingly’s fault (for the most part anyway).

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      Reed was not in the game until after Withrow left.

      • NoahUCLA

        But you know they’re going to bring in a right handed batter there, and it’s such an important out, why not have Withrow walk the person batting 9th and let Paco come in fresh. I just don’t like the call with such an important at bat coming up.

        • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

          Well, it’s why the whole process just doesn’t make sense. Walking Constanza is obviously insane.

    • RBI

      I’m definitely in the “keep Greinke in” camp. It’s not as if he was an automatic out at the plate, either. The guy’s a fierce competitor.

    • Crosseyed and Painless

      One wonders why JP didn’t just pitch the whole inning.

    • Bumsrap

      I was mad at Matingly when he over managed regarding taking Withrow out. Playoff games and the national spotlight adds adrenaline and after Withrow walked his first hitter, gaveup a broken bat grounder for a lucky hit, came back with an awesome strikeout that had to get his confidence up. He was probably settled in at that point as well.

      Withrow probably could have been the Larry Sherry of 2013 if Alston were managing.

      Mattingly is to manager as Puig is to player, both need experience to peak.

      Loved McGuire’s face as he watched Puig’s last at bat.

      • foul tip

        Going by Puig’s reaction to his earlier ABs, I kind of expected 3 swings from the heels no matter where the ball was thrown. And, yea, it came to pass.

  • http://www.linkmeister.com/wordpress/ Linkmeister

    Mattingly post-game presser.

  • ASW1

    Dodgers were 2 for 7 w/RISP and one of the hits was the infield single that failed to score a run – they also left 6 runners total on base in outhitting the Braves 10 to 6.

    Only 6 LOB? Felt like twice that.

  • Bob_in_Vegas

    Silver Lining Dept: As frustrating as the game was on “offense” and the mound in the 7th, it was still only a one-run loss . . . and they didn’t go gently into that good 9th.

    In the other department, this had such a feel of a pre-June 22 game. If it wasn’t for Hanley, the Dodgers would’ve been shut out. (Magic Johnson was so right in that interview when he said they have to start looking ahead to extend Hanley’s contract, as well as locking down Kersh.)

    Still, I was hoping for a split in Atlanta . . . and my waffle was delivered. (But seeing the game on Sunday with a chance for LA to clinch became a nice helping of strawberries and whipped cream!)

  • WBBsAs

    Did Mattingly channel LaRussa, or did LaRussa occupy his body?

  • DS1981

    BTW, if Mattingly is gone soon, i have a perfect candidate to replace him.

    http://goo.gl/X8QJVD

  • foul tip

    Well, the Braves don’t have a good road record. Ryu has a great home record. Advantage, blue.

    Too bad it’s not that simple.

  • foul tip

    Still trying to wrap my head completely around an si.com item saying League makes more than the entire Atlanta bullpen.

    Knock, knock. Ned, you home?

    • Crosseyed and Painless

      Don’t even go there, it’s just too depressing. Don’t know if it would have played out the same with regard to The Beard, but would have been nice to have had some of that League money to spend on Uehara (might have tried to sign him anyway). Don’t know what inning they’d have slotted for ole Koji, but he sure as heck wouldn’t have walked McCann. Might have even done a chop of his own after retiring the side in order. In other words, keep the Nedster far away from deals involving PVLs and middle relievers (we all have weaknesses; those are his).

    • Bob_Hendley

      I remember when Mota was the highest paid reliever.

    • Bumsrap

      Ned tries to get a good third year from his 3 year contracts as in Uribe.

  • WBBsAs

    Many worried that an out-of-control Puig might cost the Dodgers a playoff game; nobody brought up the topic of an out-of-control Mattingly.

    Meanwhile, Don’s bullpen strategy in action: http://tinyurl.com/q9qn3cl

  • ASW1
  • ASW1

    Coincidence Dept.:

    Regarding “gloaming” – I’m currently reading Charles Frazier’s latest novel “Nightwoods” – Frazier is the guy who wrote “Cold Mountain” which was @ thousand times better than the movie and contains some of the most beautiful prose I’ve ever come across – his subsequent two novels haven’t been as good but his second, “Thirteen Moons” is not bad – anyways, late last night after reading this post, I come across this passage, with “gloaming” italicized:

    “Bud walks on until the sun drops and disappears in the trees. Suddenly, all the warmth of the day drains into the ground. It gets to a point of darkness where you don’t know what to call it. Dusk or night. Twilight fits in there somewhere. People used to have a word, gloaming, but that’s only a snatch of memory from a song. Wait a few minutes, though, and like so many things, it quits being an issue. Night falls, too dark to see your feet at the bottom of your legs.”

  • Jack Dawkins

    The comic strip Drabble in the Times today has a Vin Sculley reference. The wife is askign why they have a 70 inch TV if he is going to listen to the game on radio instead. He calls it the Vin Sculley effect.

  • berkowit28

    OK, Jon, your first paragraph about the “old bear joke” was placed here a good 12 hours before the new episode of “Borgen” (a Danish show about parliamentary politics in Denmark) got its first showing on KCET at 10 pm. That began with the protagonist telling the same story (longer, better version) using a leopard instead of a bear, and was repeated again later in the episode. So was this a total coincidence, or did your job in the TV review business give you an early look at the episode, which stuck in your mind?

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      Total coincidence.

      • berkowit28

        Weird, especially because I don’t think I’ve ever heard the joke before. (That probably says something about me.) Thanks.

  • Bob_in_Vegas

    I really enjoyed an article on Sports on Earth about Mattingly . . . and was pleased to see you wrote it, Jon!

  • Spence

    I guess taking Chris Reed instead of Sonny Gray was a mistake.

    • foul tip

      TN isn’t known as a hotbed of baseball talent. But the emerging Gray, along with fellow TN natives David Price and Mike Minor, would be a pretty good nucleus for a pretty good rotation.

      Especially if Gnatt Cain, as WBB calls him, is included.

      As TBS pointed out the other night, Price and Minor were on the same Vanderbilt squad. Other SEC squads had lots of fun with that rotation.

      Uggla may be on the downside of his career, but he’s also a Tennessean.

      • WBBsAs

        I’d take any of them ahead over Gnatt Cain (who’s in a tie with Uggla).

        • foul tip

          Yeah, this season not exactly Gnatt’s finest. Next, who knows?

          • WBBsAs

            Other than a couple lucky years, his career has been one of mediocrity.

          • foul tip

            I know it’s really, really hard for you to give a Gnat any credit whatsoever. Given.

            But Gnatt Cain has, over 9 years, career ERA 3.35. 1721 IP, 1437 H (almost 300 less hits than IP), 1436 Ks, ERA 119+, WHIP 1.17.

            Career one of superstardom, no. But one of mediocrity, not.

          • WBBsAs

            Outside of a couple very good years, he has indeed been mediocre and getting more so fast.

  • John_from_Aus

    Nice story about the Dodgers rise and rise this year

    http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/9732902/restoring-dodger-way

    • berkowit28

      Yes, indeed. Thanks for the link.

  • Bob_in_Vegas

    KT, I have been running around crzy the last week and a half – I hope you get this so we can meet before today’s game . . . my # is 702-482-2623. I’ll be leaving shortly and will NOT have Internet access.

    Go Blue!

  • thescrounger

    I dn’t know whether Mattingly not getting the vote of confidence bodes well or ill for his Dodger future…

  • http://www.linkmeister.com/wordpress/ Linkmeister

    Open Thread for Pittsburgh – St. Louis.

  • DS1981

    http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-1006-erskine-tv-announcers-20131006,0,1538384.column

    I had the sound off so didn’t hear anything, but was it really that bad?

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    NPUT