Braves pitcher Mike Minor won his fifth straight Saturday against the Mets. He's seen here in the second inning of a game against the Nationals at Turner Field. (Photo: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE)
Ray Glier, USA TODAY Sports
ATLANTA -- The Braves looked too rickety for the postseason in Game 1 on Thursday. They blundered through nine innings with flimsy defense and wasted at-bats. They were mowed down by the Dodgers' starter Clayton Kershaw (12 strikeouts) flailing away at his breaking pitch. This National League Division Series looked like the series the pundits thought it would be all along with the Braves overmatched and the well-paid Dodgers too superior.
BOX SCORE: Braves 4, Dodgers 3
NIGHTENGALE: Braves have a shot after the win
But the nerves, the jitters, or whatever ailed the Braves in the 6-1 loss in Game 1, did not reappear in Game 2. Atlanta turned three double plays and got three two-out hits to drive in four runs and beat the Dodgers, 4-3, here Friday night. They looked more like the team that won 96 games in the regular season and won the National League East by 10 games.
"Yesterday there was a lot of firsts for a lot of guys and a lot of first appearances, a lot of first at-bats in the Division Series, a lot of first managing the first game in the division, too," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I was right in the middle of all those things.
"We had four pitchers come out of the bullpen last night for the first time to pitch in a playoff game, and I think that was good to get them in there and get them settled in. And then Simmons hadn't played and Gattis and you go on around the horn. I think yesterday was good for them to get their feet wet and kind of settle them down a little bit. But today I didn't think there was going to be any residue from last night."
SAFE OR OUT?: Close call costs Dodgers
BREAKDOWN: How the Braves evened the series
The biggest play in the game came in the top of the seventh with the Braves leading 2-1. The Dodgers had runners on first and third with the swift Carl Crawford hitting against Atlanta lefty reliever Luis Avilan.
Crawford hit a smash back to the mound and catcher Brian McCann screamed "4, 4, 4" for a throw to the plate to get LA runner Skip Schumaker. It wasn't just McCann screaming at Avilan to throw home, it was the whole Braves bench. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons was pleading with a throw home, too.
"It was the whole stadium screaming '4'," said reserve catcher Gerald Laird.
Avilan ignored them all. He wheeled to second base with a sure dart to Simmons, who caught it and threw to first. Double play. The Braves had turned a double play on the swift Crawford and the stadium erupted in cheers with the end of the inning. It was a stunning, nervy play by the 24-year old Avilan.
"I was hoping he would go home," Simmons said. "Crawford is running. I saw him catch it a little weird, he's going to make a bad throw if he turns. That was great, especially in the playoffs."
"He hit it pretty well, kind of hard, and my first thought was to go to second base to try the double play," Avilan said. "I knew we had Simmons with the good arm at shortstop. I saw the third base runner (Skip Schumaker) go to home plate with the first contact, I still thought I still had a good opportunity to make a play."