Braves hold off Dodgers 4-3, division series tied
The Braves are supposed to be a team that relies on strong pitching and home runs.
Instead, Atlanta evened its NL division series against the Los Angeles Dodgers with clutch defense as the complement for Mike Minor's strong start.
Jason Heyward drove in two runs with a bases-loaded single in the seventh, Minor allowed only one run and the Braves turned three double plays in their 4-3 win over Los Angeles on Friday night.
The defense delivered another key play in the ninth when catcher Gerald Laird threw out pinch-runner Dee Gordon trying to steal second base.
The series shifts to Los Angeles tied 1-1. The Braves knew they couldn't afford a second straight home loss.
''We definitely didn't want to lose two games in front of our home crowd,'' said Chris Johnson, who had two hits, including a fourth-inning single that gave Atlanta a 2-1 lead.
Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez drove in three runs with three hits, including a two-run homer in the eighth that cut the Braves' lead to one run. The homer added more value to Heyward's two-run single in the seventh.
With the Braves leading 2-1, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly ordered an intentional walk to pinch-hitter Reed Johnson, loading the bases for Heyward. Mattingly wanted left-hander Paco Rodriguez to face Heyward, a left-handed hitter.
Heyward drilled a two-run single up the middle for a 4-1 lead.
Mattingly said Rodriguez ''is a guy we think gets Heyward out. Been getting those guys out all year long for us.''
The decision to face Heyward instead of Johnson left room for second-guessing.
''I mean, you think you obviously look at everything, but we're down 2-1,'' Mattingly said. ''Yeah, you always look back at everything. You could have done this, you could have done that. I think you look at it honestly and see what you think.''
Heyward said he understood the strategy.
''Play the matchups,'' Heyward said. ''That's what the postseason is about. You go lefty-lefty there.
''I'm glad to have an opportunity to come through big for my team right there. I got a pitch and didn't miss it.''
Minor allowed one run on eight hits and one walk in 6 1-3 innings.
The Braves' last double play ended the seventh after the Dodgers had runners on first and third with one out following a pinch-hit infield single by Michael Young.
Reliever Luis Avilan fielded a grounder by Carl Crawford and made a quick and accurate throw to shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who then fired to first to complete the double play.
Simmons said he didn't expect Ayala to come to second with his throw.
''I was hoping he'd go home,'' Simmons said.
''He kind of caught (the grounder) a little weird and I was scared he was going to make a bad throw. He made a good throw and it was a good play.''
Simmons jumped in the air after making the throw to first as Ayala pumped his fist on the mound and Minor applauded in the dugout.
''We played good defense,'' said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, who said Avilan made a bold throw.
''You see a lot of those plays end up in center field,'' Gonzalez said.
Zack Greinke allowed two runs on only four hits and no walks in 6 innings. Right-hander Chris Withrow allowed two runs in the seventh.
The Braves also turned double plays in the second and third innings follow leadoff singles by Juan Uribe and Crawford, respectively.
David Carpenter almost lost the 4-1 lead in the eighth. Carpenter walked Mark Ellis to open the inning before Ramirez made contact on an awkward, lunging swing for a two-run homer that landed in the first row of the left-field seats.
Ramirez also had two doubles, including one that drove in a run in the first.
Kimbrel's fastball was clocked at 100 mph when Uribe grounded out to hit the eighth. Kimbrel hit 100 mph again in the ninth when he struck out Skip Schumaker before walking A.J. Ellis. Gordon, running for Ellis, was called out on the close play trying to steal second.
Mattingly said after watching a replay he thought Gordon was safe.
Said Gordon: ''I really don't want to talk about it. You guys saw the replay. ... I felt like everything was good. Simmons blocked the bag and I felt like I got under it.
''I need to do better at my job and make sure I'm safe next time.''
Kimbrel walked pinch-hitter Andre Ethier before striking out Crawford to end the game.
NOTES: The Dodgers stranded baserunners on first and third in the sixth when Minor struck out Uribe. ... Former Braves manager Bobby Cox threw out the first pitch, making the throw all the way to pitcher Tim Hudson behind the plate. ... Cox sat near the Braves dugout on the same row with former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn. ... NBA legend Magic Johnson, part of the Dodgers' ownership team, said the playoff season is ''the most fun I've had in years.'' ... Attendance was 48,966. ... Braves RHP Julio Teheran will face Dodgers LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu on Sunday night.