LOS ANGELES — Juan Uribe hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the eighth inning after Clayton Kershaw started on short rest for the Dodgers in a 4-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Monday night, sending Los Angeles into the National League Championship Series for the first time since 2009.
Carl Crawford homered his first two times up for the Dodgers, who won the best-of-five playoff 3-1. Manager Don Mattingly and the NL West champions will open the NLCS on Friday against St. Louis or Pittsburgh.
Meanwhile, it was the latest October flop for Atlanta, which hasn’t won a postseason series since 2001. During that stretch, the Braves have lost seven straight playoff series and the 2012 NL wild-card game.
Yasiel Puig doubled down the right-field line leading off the eighth against losing pitcher David Carpenter. The rookie charged into second base and pumped his right fist in the air.
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Fans were on their feet chanting “Let’s go Dodgers!” when Uribe fouled off two bunt attempts, then sent a hanging 2-2 breaking ball into the Dodgers’ bullpen in left field to put them in front for the second time.
“I (wanted) to have a good swing and try to win the game,” Uribe said.
Brian Wilson pitched a scoreless eighth to get the victory. Kenley Jansen came on in the ninth to earn the save, striking out Justin Upton to end it.
That set off a raucous celebration on the field by the Dodgers, who rushed toward the mound in a mob. They tore jerseys off each other in unbridled excitement and doused Uribe with a bright-colored sports drink.
“This team has a lot of fun. We don’t think about being the team to beat and all that stuff. We just go out there and play and try to have fun,” Crawford said.
The Braves took a 3-2 lead in the seventh on pinch-hitter Jose Constanza’s run-scoring single off reliever Ronald Belisario.
Needing a win to avoid elimination, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez never got the ball to lights-out closer Craig Kimbrel.
“You don’t want it to ever end the way we ended today. But we had the right guy out there. Carp has been good for us,” Gonzalez said. “There is nothing to be ashamed of.”
The Dodgers gambled in bringing back Kershaw on three days’ rest for the first time in his career. But with a chance to close out the series, they opted for their ace over scheduled starter Ricky Nolasco. The move paid off when the 2011 Cy Young Award winner tossed six solid innings before turning it over to the bullpen.
PITTSBURGH — Michael Wacha heard the chants. Then again, when 40,000 people clad in black scream your name relentlessly for the better part of three hours, it’s kind of hard to miss.
The goal was to rattle the St. Louis rookie, remind him that 22-year-old pitchers aren’t built to withstand the pressure of an elimination game.
One problem. Wacha doesn’t really do rattled. He doesn’t do pressure, either. The louder PNC Park grew, the more unhittable Wacha became.
“I kind of like it,” Wacha said. “It kind of gives me adrenaline. I kind of use it in my favor.”
And the Pittsburgh Pirates — not to mention anyone else he might face in the postseason — “kind of” need to get used to it.
Wacha took a no-hit bid into the eighth inning and the Cardinals showed off their October poise, edging the Pirates 2-1 to force a winner-take-all Game 5 in the NL Division Series. St. Louis is 7-1 over the past three years with its season on the line.
“I think you take high-talent and high-character people that are motivated and support each other, and they don’t give up,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “That’s a tough combination.”
One the Pirates are still trying to master. Pedro Alvarez hit his third home run of the series, connecting with one out in the eighth for Pittsburgh’s only hit in Game 4. It wasn’t enough for the Pirates to advance to the NL Championship Series for the first time in 21 years.
“I guess that’s why we play five,” star center fielder Andrew McCutchen said. “We’ll be ready for the fifth one.”
The Pirates weren’t quite ready for the fourth one, not with the way Wacha was dealing. He walked two and struck out nine before giving way to the bullpen in the eighth.
Matt Holliday’s two-run homer off Charlie Morton in the sixth was all the offense required on a day the Cardinals tossed the first one-hitter in the club’s lengthy postseason history.
Trevor Rosenthal worked around a two-out walk in the ninth, retiring McCutchen on a pop-up to center field for his first postseason save.