The Los Angeles Dodgers were the first team to clinch a post-season berth in 2013. So it is fitting that they would be the first team to win a playoff series.
The Dodgers defeated the Atlanta Braves 4-3 on Monday night in Game 4 of the NLDS to advance to the National League Championship Series (NLCS). It is the first time the Dodgers have been in the NLCS since 2009 when they fell to the Philadelphia Phillies.
It turns out that the decision to start Clayton Kershaw on three days rest was no more ill-advised than it was for the Braves to start an aging, twice released Freddy Garcia. Both men pitched six innings and gave up two runs. Garcia gave up both of his runs on solo home runs to Carl Crawford. It was Crawford's third home run of the NLDS. The Braves scored two runs off Kershaw in the fourth on a single by Chris Johnson and when Andrelton Simmons reached on a fielder's choice.
The Braves took a 3-2 lead in the seventh on a pinch hit single by Jose Constanza.
But it would not be enough.
The Braves handed David Carpenter the ball in the bottom of the eighth. Carpenter gave up a lead off double to Yasiel Puig. Juan Uribe then launched one of those balls you know is gone the second it is hit. Uribe's home run gave the Dodgers a 4-3 lead. Carpenter then retired the next three hitters. It did not matter.
Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen struck out Jordan Schafer, Jason Heyward and Justin Upton to end the Braves season.
Despite leading the NL in home runs, the Braves only hit one dinger in the NLDS which was hit by Heyward in a 13-6 loss in Game 3.
One could make an argument that Carpenter should have removed in favor of Craig Kimbrel after he gave up the double to Puig.
One could make an argument that Eliot Johnson should not have replaced Dan Uggla on the roster. It's true that Uggla hit .179 this season, but Johnson went 1 for 13 in the NLDS.
One could make an argument that Evan Gattis had no business playing left field.
But these arguments are all academic. The Dodgers were simply better.
It still remains to be seen who the Dodgers will play in the NLCS. The Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals will play a fifth and deciding game in their NLDS on Wednesday in St. Louis. The Cardinals forced a Game 5 after rookie starter Michael Wacha threw 7 1/3 innings of no-hit ball until Pedro Alvarez took him deep. But Matt Holliday's two run home run was sufficient for a 2-1 victory much to the disappointment of those assembled at PNC Park.
The NLCS will commence on Friday night.