This was supposed to be Clayton Kershaw's night. It turned into Juan Uribe's.
Uribe launched an eighth-inning offering by David Carpenter high into the October sky, sending the Dodgers to 4-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves and to the National League Championship Series.
Dodger Stadium literally shook when Uribe's two-run home run landed on the other side of the left-field wall and instantly reversed what was a 3-2 deficit.
On a day that started with Manager Don Mattingly defending his decision to start Kershaw on three days' rest, the Dodgers won the best-of-five series, three games to one.
The chants of the home crowd drowned out Uribe's voice when the third baseman was interviewed over the public-address system after the game. When the champagne celebration started in the clubhouse, Uribe was in the middle of a circle of players, who sprayed him. Uribe was embraced by General Manager Ned Colletti, who was widely criticized for signing him to a $21-million contract three years ago.
"This moment, I'll never forget," Uribe said.
Who would have imagined?
This was the same player who batted a combined .199 over the first two years of his contract. He was a candidate to be replaced in spring training.
Uribe reclaimed his long-lost place as the Dodgers' third baseman. He hit .278 with 12 home runs and 50 runs batted in. He played spectacular defense and became a mentor to Yasiel Puig.
If Mattingly had had his way, Uribe would have bunted in the eighth inning Monday, as Puig led off with a double down the right-field line. But Uribe's first bunt attempts landed foul, forcing him to try to put the ball in play. Mattingly hoped Uribe could hit the ball to the right side of the infield to move Puig to third. Instead, Uribe blasted a 2-2 slider by Carpenter over the left-field wall.
What Uribe did wasn't entirely foreign to him. He won a World Series with the Chicago White Sox in 2005 and another with the San Francisco Giants in 2010.
"He's been in that situation before," Hanley Ramirez said. "When it comes to the postseason, he comes through."
Kershaw wants to feel what Uribe felt in those Octobers past, which is why he talked his way into replacing Ricky Nolasco and pitching Monday on three days' rest.
Kershaw argued that this was why the Dodgers protected him for as long they did. So he could be the kind of pitcher he is now. So he could pitch in a game such as this under these circumstances.
Kershaw did his part to end the series in Los Angeles, becoming the first pitcher since Josh Beckett in the 2003 World Series to pitch six or more innings on three days' rest and not give up an earned run.
But he was let down by the defense behind him.
A 2-0 Dodgers lead disappeared in an exasperating fourth inning. Errors by Adrian Gonzalez and Mark Ellis resulted in a pair of runs for the Braves, who tied the game 2-2. Both runs were unearned.
Kershaw, who threw 124 pitches in Game 1, gave up only three hits and a walk. He struck out six. He threw 91 pitches over six innings.
The Braves didn't score again off Kershaw, but the Dodgers didn't score any more runs against Freddy Garcia, either.
The only two runs charged to the 37-year-old Garcia were solo home runs by Carl Crawford in the first and third innings.
By holding the Dodgers to two runs and eight hits over six innings, Garcia did what was asked of him, which was to give the Braves a chance.
As soon as Kershaw was out of the game, the Braves moved in front. The notoriously erratic Ronald Belisario gave up a one-out triple to Elliot Johnson, who scored on a single by pinch-hitter Jose Constanza.
The Dodgers were suddenly down 3-2.
But because of Uribe's home run, the Dodgers avoid a return trip to Turner Field for a Game 5.
They will have to wait until Wednesday to find out whom they will play in the NLCS. That's the day the St. Louis Cardinals will host the Pittsburgh Pirates in Game 5 of their division series.
If the Cardinals win, the Dodgers will start the NLCS on Friday at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. If the Pirates win, the Dodgers will open the NLCS at home.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun