Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Juan Uribe is the best, Yasiel Puig shows maturity, Dodgers head to NLCS

So, that was a pretty good game, no? I had a chance to be there, but just couldn’t make it work, logistically. Man, am I regretting that.

But, all that matters is the Dodgers won and are on their way to the National League Championship Series.

It started around 12 p.m. on Wednesday, when the Dodgers announced Clayton Kershaw would start on three day’s rest. He responded by throwing six innings, allowing three hits, two unearned runs, one walk while striking out six. The history of pitchers going on short rest wasn’t good, but Kershaw isn’t one to fall prey to history.

Carl Crawford got it started early with a leadoff home run. Then he hit another one in the third inning. Some possibly smart and handsome person pegged him as an "X-Factor" of sorts prior to the playoffs.

Last night’s game was great. The Dodgers’ defense wasn’t, but the rest of the game was. Two of the Braves’ three runs came in the fourth inning when two of their most sure-handed defenders made errors. Technically, Adrian Gonzalez got both of the errors, but the throw Mark Ellis made on a surefire double play ball was bad. But, you can’t assume a double play -- for some reason.

The Dodgers, down 3-2, had Yasiel Puig up in the eighth. You know, that guy who was supposed to cost the Dodgers some games in the playoffs? Well, not only did he help win the series for the Dodgers, he showed a maturity that was previously unseen.

Instead of trying to tie the game up himself off flamethrower David Carpenter, Puig did what a great hitter does: he took what the pitcher gave him and doubled to the right field corner. That set up the eventual game-winning home run by everyone’s favorite Dodger Juan Uribe.

I’ve been difficult on Uribe in the past. It was hard not to be after he got a ridiculous contract after not doing a whole lot in San Francisco (no matter what Giants’ fans say). He somehow survived the winter by not getting designated for assignment, began the season behind Luis Cruz on the third base depth chart (which looks absolutely ridiculous now) only to take it back with elite defense, better plate discipline and timely hitting.

A few months ago, I softened my stance on Uribe and warmed up to the reality he was a solid third baseman for this club.

Well, he might have hit the biggest home run of the season for the Dodgers -- and it was a no-doubter (Jazz Hands!). This after Don Mattingly called for the bunt on the first two pitches of Uribe’s at-bat.

Kenley Jansen came in and slammed the door shut by striking out the side.

The Dodgers are NLCS-bound, and they’ll face either the Cardinals or the Pirates. The deciding Game 5 (in St. Louis) is Wednesday night.

The Dodgers match up favorably against both teams. Playing St. Louis means playing a playoff-tested team that is sound in every facet of the game. However, their left-handed hitters could be neutralized by the Dodgers’ left-handed pitching. Playing Pittsburgh means playing a young and hungry team with some underrated pitching. However, the Dodgers would have home-field advantage over the Pirates, meaning Zack Greinke and Kershaw would start Games 1 and 2 in Dodger Stadium.

Gerrit Cole faces Adam Wainwright. No matter what happens, both pitchers likely won’t be available until Game 3 of the NLCS, which is an advantage for the Dodgers.

The NLCS starts Friday. This feels different than 2008 and 2009. This feels like something special is about to happen. Stay tuned.

Photo credit: Dustin Nosler, Feelin’ Kinda Blue

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