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Braves playoffs done after 4-3 loss to Dodgers

1:09 AM, Oct 8, 2013   |    comments
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LOS ANGELES --  After Braves outfielder Jose Constanza had given his team a 3-2 lead with a seventh-inning pinch single off Ronald Belisario, the Dodgers' rose in the bottom of the eighth with one of their typical explosive rallies.

PHOTOS | Braves vs Dodgers: NLDS Game 4

Rookie Yasiel Puig led off with a sharp double down the right-field line off Braves reliever David Carpenter.

Up next was veteran third baseman Juan Uribe, in the lineup more for his glove than his bat, though he delivered a clutch homer in Sunday night's 13-6 Dodger win.

Uribe tried twice to bunt Puig to third. Then, on a 2-2 slider, Uribe drove a majestic fly ball over the left-field fence for a two-run homer and a 4-3 Dodgers lead.

L.A. closer Kenley Jansen came on in the ninth to nail down the win and the 3-1 series victory, the Dodgers advancing to the NL Championship Series in a season that began with them famously floundering in last place.

Then came their historic 42-8 run in midsummer. Now it's fall and they look like they might be headed for a classic finish.

The day began with a surprise announcement by the Dodgers that they were starting ace Clayton Kershaw on three days' rest instead of going with struggling No. 4 starter Ricky Nolasco.

Kershaw, in his first career start on short rest, was sharp early and not so sharp later. He was relieved after six innings and 91 pitches - with the game tied 2-2 -- by Belisario, who gave up a one-out triple to No. 8 hitter Elliot Johnson in the seventh inning.

That brought up the pitcher's spot, and Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, selecting a pinch-hitter for starting pitcher Freddy Garcia, who impressively matched Kershaw through six innings, chose Constanza, a 30-year-old left-handed-hitting outfielder who played most of the last three seasons in Class AAA Gwinnett, Ill.

On a 2-1 fastball, Constanza lined a single to center and waved his arms in triumph as he ran to first and Johnson scored.

And just like that, the Braves looked like they had survived the Dodgers attempt to snuff them out with Kershaw.

Kershaw, when he's got all his pitches going, is an artist. In the second inning, he got the first out when Brian McCann took a called third strike - a 75 mph curveball that crossed the plate thigh-high and landed in catcher A.J. Ellis' glove just above the ground. McCann was so sure the pitch was low that he nearly got himself kicked out of the game, home plate ump Bill Miller showing impressive restraint.

Kershaw got the second out of the inning on a full-count 94 mph fastball that Andrelton Simmons had no idea what to do with so he just looked at it and then walked without argument to the dugout.

Meanwhile, Carl Crawford, the Dodgers' leadoff hitter, again set the early tone offensively. His three-run homer in the second inning Sunday night gave the Dodgers an early 4-2 lead. Monday, he delivered even earlier, blasting another home run to right field to lead off the first inning. It was the first time he had ever led off a playoff game with a home run, but it wasn't the first time he had done it against Garcia, having led off a regular season game against him in 2005 back when Garcia was a power pitcher with the White Sox.

And then he did it again, crushing a 2-2 sinker down the line and way over the right-field fence in the third inning for a 2-0 lead.

Kershaw and his teammates couldn't hold it, though, as the Braves answered with two unearned runs in the fourth inning. Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez messed up a potential double play with a bad throw to second that opened the door to both runs, the second one scoring when second baseman Mark Ellis threw off-target on what should have been an inning-ending double play.

Though both runs were unearned, the Braves hit the ball hard in the inning, particularly Freddie Freeman's line drive leadoff single to center and Chris Johnson's sharp RBI single to left.

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