Dodgers unable to lend Hanley helping hand
Missed opportunities offset shortstop's three-RBI performance
ATLANTA -- One night after every receiving offensive contributions up and down the lineup in a series-opening victory, the Dodgers came up one big hit short in Friday's 4-3 loss in Game 2 of the National League Division Series.
Los Angeles could not cash in on a number of opportunities early in the game, ultimately resulting in a one-run loss despite out-hitting Atlanta, 10-6, and a stellar night at the plate from Hanley Ramirez. The Dodgers shortstop collected three hits, including a two-run homer in the eighth inning, and drove in all three of his team's runs, but it wasn't enough as the Braves evened up the series heading into Sunday's Game 3 at Dodger Stadium at 5 p.m. PT on TBS.
"Hanley had a great game and really kept us in it single-handedly tonight," catcher A.J. Ellis said. "He carried us all night long and we just couldn't come through and help him out. Hopefully we get some other guys, myself included, to contribute a little more on Sunday."
The Dodgers began three straight innings from the second to the fourth with a leadoff single, but failed to produce a run in any of the three innings. In both the second and third frames, the next batter followed with a double-play ball, and Braves starter Mike Minor retired each of the next three batters after Adrian Gonzalez's leadoff single in the fourth.
"One big hit and we could have been in good shape, but we just didn't get it today," Gonzalez said. "We had our chances, especially early in the game, to really take control and just never did. We just couldn't come through with the hits when we needed them, and they did."
In all, the Dodgers grounded into three double plays, none of which loomed larger than Carl Crawford's comebacker to end the seventh inning.
With the Dodgers trailing, 2-1, Crawford stepped to the plate after pinch-hitter Michael Young had legged out an infield single to put runners at the corners with just one out. At that point, Atlanta turned to southpaw reliever Luis Avilan to face the left-handed-hitting Crawford, who grounded into just four double plays during the regular season.
The move paid off, as Crawford scorched the ball right back to Avilan. The lefty spun quickly toward second base and fired to shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who relayed the ball on to first baseman Freddie Freeman to complete the threat-ending double play. Atlanta tacked on a pair of runs in the bottom half of the inning to push the lead to 4-1.
"We felt like if he got it on the ground, they're not going to get two unless it's just a bullet right at somebody," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "At that point, that's a big league play -- many times you'll see that guy not make that play. If everything doesn't really go perfect right there, they don't get Carl. If it's not a perfect throw to short and Simmons, he makes a nice play and he's got a cannon. So they do everything right right there."
Even when the Dodgers finally broke through in the eighth with Ramirez's two-run homer, Los Angeles couldn't capitalize on the brief momentum swing. With still nobody out in the inning and the lead cut to 4-3, Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig followed Ramirez with back-to-back strikeouts. Closer Craig Kimbrel came in to retire Juan Uribe, ending the frame.
"Mark [Ellis] gets on to start the inning, Hanley hits the homer, we're within one, and we're going to have six outs to score," Mattingly said. "So you know, obviously the game had changed again for us. I don't know about it slipping away, but that inning got finished and we had our chances again in the last inning."
A.J. Ellis worked a one-out walk against Kimbrel in the ninth, putting the potential tying run on base, only to have pinch-runner Dee Gordon caught trying to steal second base on a close play. Pinch-hitter Andre Ethier followed with another walk, but Kimbrel responded by striking out Crawford to seal the victory.
"That's baseball," Ramirez said. "We've got to do a better job with guys in scoring position because everything counts in the playoffs. Every play, every pitch. It just wasn't our night, but we know we can bounce back."