As Kenley Jansen struck out Justin Upton swinging to send his Los Angeles Dodgers to the NLCS with a 4-3 win, all Braves’ closer Craig Kimbrel could do was stand and watch.
The seesaw battle at Dodgers Stadium featured the unexpected with Skip Schumaker being intentionally walked, Fredi Garcia somehow keeping the game tied through six innings against one of MLB’s best starters, Clayton Kershaw and Dodgers’ reliever Brian Wilson ripping the jersey off a teammate in a celebration.
In the end, Dodgers Juan Uribe came away the hero while Gonzalez left the best relief pitcher in baseball in the bullpen waiting for a save situation to present itself.
The Braves seemed to have luck on their side all night, and given the pitching matchup, they needed some if they were going to send the series back to Turner Field in the ATL for a rubber match fifth game.
Despite allowing a couple solo homeruns to Crawford and working around a jam in the sixth, Freddy Garcia turned in a fantastic outing, despite the fact he took the mound about eight years past his prime.
Dodger fielding miscues allowed the Braves to tie the game in the fourth inning when two botched double plays around a wild pitch and single allowed the Braves to score a pair of runs.
Heading into the seventh, the Braves were optimistic as their journeyman starter gave them a terrific opportunity to beat the likely 2013 NL Cy Young Winner. More unlikely heroes emerged for the Braves as Elliot Johnson, claimed off waiver in August, and Jose Constanza, whose bat licking is more famous than his baseball abilities, combined a triple and pinch hit single to give Atlanta a 3-2 advantage.
With six outs to go, David Carpenter took the hump to face young sensation Yasiel Puig. Puig answered with a double to right field. As Kimbrel stood ready in the bullpen, Carpenter picked up two quick strikes on Uribe who fouled off a pair of bunt attempts. But that was followed by hanging breaking ball that Uribe deposited over the left field fence, sending the Dodgers’ faithful into a frenzy and giving his team a 4-3 lead that would turn into the final margin.
As Jansen nailed the game shut Braves fans were left wondering what might have been if their best relief pitcher had come in for a multi-inning save with the season on the line. As the Dodgers move onto the NLCS at least fans can take comfort in the fact that Fredi Gonzalez will have Kimbrel rested up for next season.