Veteran infielder shrugging off difficult 2012 season with timely hits
LOS ANGELES -- A year ago, it would have been hard to imagine Juan Uribe having an impact in the postseason for the Dodgers. But the third baseman has carried his turnaround season into October.
Uribe was in the thick of the Dodgers' 13-6 comeback victory over the Braves on Sunday in Game 3 of the National League Division Series, capping a four-run fourth inning with a two-run homer. He also singled and scored in a four-run second inning after the Dodgers had fallen behind, 2-0.
"I feel happy that I'm helping my team," Uribe said after the win, which put the Dodgers one victory away from advancing to the NL Championship Series.
Uribe didn't have many opportunities to say that in 2012.
Essentially a forgotten man who appeared in just one game last September, Uribe regained his starting job at third base this year. In addition to providing Gold Glove-caliber defense, Uribe contributed a steady bat throughout this season. He hit .278 with a .331 on-base percentage and a .438 slugging percentage, collecting 12 homers, 50 RBIs and 22 doubles in 132 games. Those totals represent his best numbers since he signed a three-year, $21 million contract with the Dodgers after the 2010 season.
Uribe didn't sour after losing his starting job to Luis Cruz last summer, and for that, he earned the respect of teammates and coaches. Now, the two-time World Series champion has become an important figure in the Dodgers' magical season.
"He makes sure everybody stays in line, stays in check," said catcher A.J. Ellis. "He's not afraid to cut up with everybody. You ask anyone in this clubhouse, they'd say Juan Uribe is their favorite teammate. He keeps us all going in the right direction."
The Dodgers affectionately refer to Uribe as "Papi." And while he's not quite Boston slugger David Ortiz, Uribe delivers in October just like "Big Papi" does for the Red Sox. In 33 career postseason games, Uribe has 18 RBIs and nine extra-base hits.
Uribe has also evolved as a hitter this season, thanks to tireless work he's put in with Dodgers hitting coaches Mark McGwire and John Valentin to utilize the whole field. Uribe did just that in Game 3, jumping on the first pitch he saw from Braves left-hander Travis Wood for an opposite-field laser that gave Los Angeles a 10-4 lead.
As the ball soared over the right-field fence, Uribe pumped his fist and a sold-out Dodger Stadium roared with life. When Uribe returned to the dugout, good friend Hanley Ramirez was waiting to celebrate another signature moment in a memorable season for Uribe.
"Papi has a flair for the playoffs, it seems," manager Don Mattingly said. "He gets a lot of big hits."
The Dodgers will need more of the same from Uribe as October continues, and he's showing no signs of slowing down.
Austin Laymance is an associate reporter for MLB.com.