Consistent slugger picks up where he left off during regular season
ATLANTA -- During a season in which injuries constantly forced the Dodgers to mix and match lineups, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez seemed to provide one consistent, driving force in the middle of the order.
Gonzalez, who notched 22 home runs and 100 RBIs while playing a team-high 157 games during the season, wasted no time making his mark on the National League Division Series. The veteran slugger on Thursday crushed a two-run homer in the third inning of Game 1, keying a balanced Dodgers' offensive attack.
"He's been the guy in the middle of the lineup who has kept us together," said catcher A.J. Ellis, who pitched in with two doubles and an RBI of his own. "His ability to be a run producer is something that we've needed in the middle of the lineup and he's come through time and again."
Ellis, who hit just .207 after the All-Star break and roped just four doubles in 132 at-bats over the season's final two months, caught fire in Game 1, a 6-1 win over the Braves.
With outfielder Matt Kemp out for the postseason with an ankle injury and fellow slugger Andre Ethier limited to pinch-hit duties due to an ankle injury of his own, the Dodgers need production from up and down the lineup, and on Thursday they got it. Skip Schumaker was the only starting position player without at least one base hit, but he drove in the game's first run with a sacrifice fly and later reached base via a walk.
"We have a lineup that's deep," Gonzalez said. "So when we're at our best, we're doing it as a whole. I think that's our game plan for the entire postseason is to do it as a whole, and nobody go out there and try to do too much with anything."
That philosophy worked well on Thursday night. Gonzalez's home run extended the lead to 4-0, with Schumaker's sacrifice fly and Ellis' two-out RBI double in the inning prior accounting for Los Angeles' first two runs. Second baseman Mark Ellis tacked on a two-out RBI single one inning later to push the Dodgers' lead to five.
"I think the difference for us tonight was a couple of big two-out hits," manager Don Mattingly said. "Really A.J. gets a two-out hit there and Adrian's home run came with two outs. Mark Ellis' two-out hit. We kind of just kept adding on."
With four players turning in multihit efforts, A.J. Ellis said everyone just began feeding off one another in the Dodgers' dugout. It was also the type of offensive performance that Ellis said the Dodgers will continue to need throughout their postseason run.
"It makes us all feel like we're a part of it. Part of the fight, part of the game," Ellis said. "And that's what we need. It's great when everyone can contribute like tonight and we're getting production from everywhere in the lineup. It's a huge confidence booster."