The Los Angeles Dodgers are a glamorous team, with marquee names dotting their roster like stars in the Hollywood hills. Ironically, their biggest play of the year came from a B-lister.
After two unsuccessful bunt attempts, Juan Uribe hit a game-winning two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning Monday night to lift the Dodgers past the Atlanta Braves 4-3 and send the L.A. to their first NL Championship Series since 2009.
"It was a good moment for me," Uribe said of his moonshot. "It was a good moment, too, for doing my job. This is what I tell my teammates. A lot of people want to be in the moment that we have right now. And this moment we'll never forget."
Dodgers fans would certainly agree. In a sloppy game rife with poor defense, Uribe’s unlikely heroics sent Dodgers stadium into a frenzy. With rookie sensation Yasiel Puig safely on second and no outs, manager Don Mattingly had Uribe attempt a bunt on his first two pitches, both of which went foul for an 0-2 count.
"Why am I bunting him? That's what I thought at first," Mattingly said after the game. "But really, I'm thinking of shooting the ball to the right side, moving a runner over, driving him in and the next thing you know, as soon as he hit it, I knew it was gone. I'm thinking, playoffs are so stupid, aren't they? Just crazy. That's what I'm thinking about."
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw got the start, a controversial decision given that the left-hander -- who lead the MLB with a 1.83 ERA -- started game 1 and was pitching on just three days rest. But the moved paid off for L.A., as Kershaw gave up just three hits over six innings. Neither of the two runs scored against him were earned, as they both came on an error from Adrian Gonzalez.
"He's just a different cat, you know?" Mattingly said of Kershaw, the overwhelming favorite to win his second Cy Young Award. "I'm sure there have been guys out there like him throughout the years, but there are not many."
Braves starter Freddy Garcia also played exceptionally well. Outside of Carl Crawford’s two home runs in the first and third innings, Garcia pitched a strong game over six innings and put Atlanta in a position to win.
It looked like they might too, as the Braves grabbed the lead in the seventh inning thanks to a triple from Elliot Johnson that rattled around the right field corner. He scored on a pinch-hit single from the next batter, Jose Constanza.
But the Dodgers magical season has been defined in part by gutty late-game performances and none were bigger than Uribe’s. After only getting a single at-bat during the month of September, the third-baseman is looking to replicate his 2010 postseason performance as a member of the San Francisco Giants by guiding his new team through the 2013 MLB Playoffs. Despite -- or perhaps because of -- his lackluster three years with L.A., other Dodgers players were thrilled that Uribe was the one who came through in game 4.
"He's the best teammate I've ever played with," outfielder Matt Kemp said.
The Dodgers will face the winner of the Pirates Cardinals series in the NLCS. The winner-take-all game 5 of that series is scheduled for Wednesday night.