Three days after defeating the Colorado Rockies Rockies to take home their sixth consecutive National League West crown, the Los Angeles Dodgers now face the Atlanta Braves in the NL Division Series.
The two storied franchises have faced off in the postseason only twice before, with wildly differing results.
The first matchup between came in 1996, during the Braves’ stretch of 14 consecutive division titles and a year after their only World Series victory in Atlanta.
The Dodgers had capped off their homegrown core with Todd Hollandsworth, who would win the Rookie of the Year Award, making it five years straight a Dodger would take home the hardware.
In Game 1, John Smoltz and Ramon Martinez battled to a 1-1 tie after nine innings. A pair of eventual Dodgers would provide the first run of the game for the Braves, as Fred McGriff drove in Marquis Grissom with a sacrifice fly in the fourth.
The Dodgers would even up the scoring in the following inning, as Hollandsworth doubled in Greg Gagne.
The score would remain the same until the 10th inning, when Javy Lopez opened the frame with a solo home run off of Antonio Osuna. Gagne would single with one out in the bottom of the 10th, but was left stranded to end the game.
Game 2 was another pitchers’ duel, as Greg Maddux took the hill for Atlanta and was opposed by Ismael Valdez. The Dodgers struck early, as Hollandsworth led off the game with a single and reached second on an error by Ryan Klesko. A pair of groundouts allowed him to score to give the Dodgers an early lead.
Atlanta answered back, tying the game in the second inning on a Klesko home run. The Dodgers would again take the lead in the fourth as Raul Mondesi doubled in Mike Piazza with two outs.
That lead would last only until the seventh, when Fred McGriff homered to tie the game and Jermaine Dye added a long ball of his own to give the Braves the lead. The Dodgers failed to have a runner reach base after the fourth, and the Braves would take Game 2 by a margin of 3-2.
Game 3 wasn’t as close as the series moved back to Atlanta. The Braves took the lead in the first inning on a McGriff double off of Hideo Nomo. Then Nomo completely imploded in the fourth inning.
After recording two quick outs, Glavine doubled and Grissom walked. Mark Lemke hit a two-run double that was followed by a Chipper Jones home run, giving the Braves a 5-0 lead. The Dodgers tried to scratch back, adding a run in the seventh and another in the eighth on a Juan Castro double and a Mike Piazza fly out, respectively.
They brought the tying run to the plate in the eighth, but Braves’ closer Mark Wohlers got Tim Wallach to pop out to end the threat. The Dodgers were retired in order in the ninth to end the game and the series.
The two teams’ second meeting, in 2013, had a different outcome. The Dodgers were riding high after a 42-8 summer stretch, coming behind the resurgent season of Hanley Ramirez and debut of Yasiel Puig. The Braves had won 96 games behind Freddie Freeman’s breakout season and solid pitching.
Game 1 pitted Clayton Kershaw against Kris Medlen, which was as lopsided a matchup as it sounded. The Dodgers gave Kershaw an early lead by scoring two in the second thanks to a Skip Schumaker fly out and an A.J. Ellis double.
They added two more in the third on an Adrian Gonzalez home run. Mark Ellis tacked on an RBI single in the fourth to put the game out of reach.
Atlanta did touch Kershaw for a run, with a two-out single from Chris Johnson that scored Freeman. But that was all for the Braves, as Kershaw dominated to the tune of seven innings of one-run ball while striking out a dozen. The Dodgers would go on to win 6-1.
Game 2 was a much closer contest. Zack Greinke faced off with Mike Minor. The Dodgers again jumped out to an early lead, as Ramirez doubled in Ellis in the first inning. But the Braves came right back in the second with a two-out double from Andrelton Simmons that scored Evan Gattis.
Atlanta added another run in the fourth on Johnson’s RBI single. It remained a 2-1 game until the seventh, when Chris Withrow relieved Greinke.
After allowing a pair of runners and recording two outs, Withrow was pulled for Paco Rodriguez, who intentionally walked Reed Johnson to load the bases. The lefty specialist faced Jason Heyward, who singled up the middle to plate two more runs.
Ramirez would homer in the eighth to bring the game within a single run and the Dodgers threatened in the ninth. Ellis drew a one out walk and Dee Gordon came in as a pinch-runner. But Gordon was caught stealing to record the second out.
Pinch-hitter Andre Ethier walked to bring up Carl Crawford as the potential go-ahead run, but Braves’ closer Craig Kimbrel would end the threat with a strikeout to even the series at one game apiece.
Game 3 looked more like a football score. Hyun-jin Ryu and Julio Teheran allowed a total of 10 runs in the first three innings. The game was tied heading to the bottom of the third when Gonzalez and Schumaker added RBI singles to give the Dodgers a 6-4 lead.
They added four more in the fourth inning, capped off by a Juan Uribe home run against future Dodgers southpaw Alex Wood. That made the game 10-4.
Los Angeles scored three more in the eighth and the Braves got two in the ninth to produce a final score of 13-6. Ramirez fell a homer short of the cycle and Yasiel Puig added three hits.
With a chance to clinch the series at home, the Dodgers sent Kershaw to the mound on short rest to oppose Freddy Garcia. The Dodgers opened up the scoring in their first at-bat, as Crawford hit a leadoff home run.
Crawford homered again in the third inning to give Kershaw a two run cushion. But the lead didn’t last.
In the fourth, Freeman singled to lead off the inning. Then Evan Gattis grounded a ball to Gonzalez, who attempted to start a double play. Ellis couldn’t handle the throw and both runners were safe.
A wild pitch placed both runners in scoring position. Johnson singled in Freeman and Simmons added an RBI groundout to tie the game at 2-2. The score would hold until the seventh, when Ronald Belisario allowed a triple to Elliot Johnson, who would be singled in by Jose Constanza to give the Braves a 3-2 lead.
The Dodgers threatened in the bottom of the frame, after a two-out double from Mark Ellis and an intentional walk to Ramirez. Gonzalez came up to face another future Dodgers pitcher, Luis Avilan, with a chance to tie the game and more, but he fouled out to end the inning.
Then things just got weird. In the bottom of the eighth, down a run, Puig led off with a double, putting the tying run in scoring position. That brought up Juan Uribe, who had struggled mightily with the team in 2011 and 2012 but finally broke out in 2013 and quickly became a fan favorite.
Manager Don Mattingly asked the veteran to bunt Puig to third, playing for the tie. Craig Kimbrel loomed in the Braves’ bullpen and Mattingly was probably hoping to scratch across a run before Kimbrel could come in and dash the Dodgers’ hopes. But he never got the chance.
After failing to lay the bunt down on the first two pitches of the at-bat, Mattingly gave Uribe the go-ahead to swing away. With a 2-2 count, Braves’ reliever David Carpenter hung a slider up and in and Uribe swatted it into the Dodgers’ bullpen to give them a 4-3 lead.
Kenley Jansen was called upon to close out the game and the series in the ninth inning. He was flawless. He struck out Jordan Schafer, Jason Heyward and Justin Upton to secure the win and send the Dodgers to the NL Championship Series.