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October 8, 2013

Playoff Prospectus

NLDS Game Four Recap: Dodgers 4, Braves 3

by Daniel Rathman


Yesterday afternoon, right around lunchtime in Los Angeles, the Dodgers dropped this bombshell:

With a 2-1 advantage in the Division Series and a chance to seal victory on their home turf, the Dodgers were going for the jugular. Manager Don Mattingly had decided to hand the ball to his best pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, and ask him to do something that he had never done as a starter: work on three days’ rest.

Some nine hours later, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was given a similar opportunity. His team had stared down Kershaw and, with the help of shaky glovework from the Dodgers, come out ahead. As the game went into the seventh-inning stretch, the winning pitcher of record was Freddy Garcia, and the go-ahead run freshly delivered by the unlikely tandem of Elliot Johnson, who tripled with one away in the top of the seventh, and pinch-hitter Jose Constanza, who singled him home.

Luis Avilan and Brian Wilson each stranded a couple of baserunners to preserve the 3-2 score until the bottom of the eighth—decision time for Gonzalez. His best pitcher, Craig Kimbrel, was getting greased up for a high-leverage assignment. But Kimbrel, well on his way to being remembered as one of the great closers of the post-Mariano Rivera generation, had never recorded six outs to convert a save. In fact, the 25-year-old had only twice completed two innings in any major-league situation, once while blowing a save chance in 2011, his rookie year, and once as a 22-year-old wetting his feet in 2010.

Gonzalez went instead with David Carpenter, who earned his trust with an outstanding regular season, during which he compiled a 1.78 ERA and went 33 straight appearances from late July through September without coughing up more than one run. Yasiel Puig led off the frame with a double, putting the tying run in scoring position and bringing the go-ahead run to the plate. Kimbrel was ready. But Gonzalez was not prepared to put him in for six outs.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: AL... (10/08)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: AL... (10/08)
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Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: AL... (10/09)
Next Article >>
The Lineup Card: 8 Mem... (10/09)

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