Back end of 'pen clamps down for Dodgers
LOS ANGELES -- Don Mattingly's decision to use Clayton Kershaw on three days' rest in Game 4 of the National League Division Series on Monday came with varied reactions.
Media members, fans and seemingly everyone that follows the sport chimed in, but after the Dodgers defeated the Braves, 4-3, to clinch a spot in the NL Championship Series, none of it mattered.
Despite another quality start from Kershaw, who left after six innings with the score tied at 2, the game was decided by the bullpens.
Juan Uribe's dramatic home run, Brian Wilson's scoreless eighth inning and Kenley Jansen's first career postseason save ultimately sealed the deal. But during the seventh it appeared as if the bullpen had blown the Dodgers' shot to celebrate in front of their home fans.
Right-handed reliever Ronald Belisario -- who had not allowed a run in his last three postseason appearances -- began the seventh inning, but promptly ran into trouble.
After retiring Andrelton Simmons to begin the inning, Elliot Johnson tripled into the right-field corner and Jose Constanza's RBI single gave the Braves a 3-2 lead.
"You've got to give a lot of credit to the fans for willing us through this one," Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier said. "Momentum swung pretty quick back on their side."
J.P. Howell was summoned from the bullpen to finish off the inning, but the damage was seemingly done.
"Things were intense, but we never lose hope -- especially playing here at home," Ethier said. "We know when we have outs left and pitches left on the board that we're going to try to mount some type of comeback."
The Dodgers' bats fell quiet in their half of the seventh, stranding two runners, and Mattingly turned to Wilson for the eighth.
Wilson gave the Dodgers exactly what they needed as he pitched a scoreless eighth. He has yet to allow an earned run in 14 2/3 career postseason innings.
"Wilson allows us to give that inning to him and not have to go left-right," Mattingly said. "You feel like he's going to get lefties and righties out. He's showing his velocity keeps creeping. We've found out that this guy doesn't throw the ball over the middle of the plate very often. He's got weapons for righties and lefties -- he throws the ball where he wants. He's been tremendous for us."
Wilson's inning kept hope alive, and although Uribe's two-run home run was officially the difference in the game and pushed Belisario's blunder to a mere afterthought, Ethier also noted that the 54,438 fans in attendance had a strong impact on the comeback.
"These fans stayed in it for us and pushed us through to help us finish this thing at home," Ethier said.