The Dodgers took the crowd at Turner Field out of the first game, but they couldn't accomplish the same in the second. Although the fans of the Braves probably love the sound of the "tomahawk chop" chant, the noise is annoying to everybody else and probably disturbs players' concentration. By scoring early and often in the first game, the Dodgers didn't have to listen to the chant. But during the second game, despite scoring first, L.A. heard it constantly.
Being a Major Leaguer, every player is accustomed to performing in front of hostile crowds. During the regular season, the Dodgers listened to the chant "Beat L.A." at opposing stadiums in the National League West. Though those fans hoped this chant would unnerve the Dodgers, it seemed to inspire the club instead. When a player is booed at a rival park, he takes it as a tribute to his skill.
In the playoffs, the crowd noise intensifies. The home crowd will respond on almost every play. The chanting in Atlanta lasted longer than most cheers from other crowds around the league. The Dodgers were expected to be booed during the games in Atlanta, and I was surprised that neither Kershaw nor Hanley Ramirez received more boos than they did.
The Atlanta crowds chose to boo rookie phenomenon Yasiel Puig. Although Puig has had a great performance in a little more than half of a season in the Major Leagues, it shouldn't produce such a reaction from the crowd, but his intensity and risk-taking style of play annoy the opposing teams and their fans.
Wasting scoring opportunities has been a continuing theme for the Dodgers this season. This was usually the biggest factor when L.A. lost, and it reared its ugly and frustrating head Friday. The Dodgers didn't leave many runners in scoring position, because they hit into double plays. Mike Minor, who started Game 2 for the Braves, was known as a fly-ball pitcher during the regular season, so when the Dodgers grounded into three double plays Friday, it was a surprise, and it undermined another brilliant pitching performance by Greinke.
Facing the best pitching staff in the NL, the Dodgers can't waste many scoring opportunities and still hope to advance to the NL Championship Series.
Ramirez, despite missing most of September with an irritated nerve in his back, has done fantastically in his first postseason after playing over 1,000 Major League games. And after being a major contributor to the Dodgers' victory on Thursday, Ramirez drove in all three L.A. runs on Friday, including an eighth-inning two-run homer.
Although Atlanta quieted Adrian Gonzalez on Friday and limited him to one hit, he has given the Dodgers a threatening presence in the lineup, especially after his two-run homer on Thursday. Puig has gotten hits even though he hasn't displayed any power thus far in the postseason.
Since baseball is a team sport and it takes all the players working together to produce victories, it is difficult and unfair to select a player to blame for the loss on Friday. However, Carl Crawford's inability to capitalize on a scoring opportunity was glaring. As a leadoff hitter, Crawford's responsibility is to get on base any way he can, but so far in the playoffs, he hasn't done this. In the NLDS, he has had two singles and a walk and hasn't attempted to steal a base. During the regular season, Crawford's batting average was .167 against Atlanta.
With Matt Kemp out for the postseason and Andre Ethier limited to a pinch-hitting role, the Dodgers believe that they have a shortage of outfielders. Except for Puig, manager Don Mattingly has chosen to play the outfielders with the most experience in the postseason.
This has left Scott Van Slyke on the bench in case another outfielder gets injured. The rookie had a fantastic game earlier this year in Atlanta, hitting two homers. Mattingly should consider starting him in left field Sunday night or replacing Crawford after the sixth.
Mattingly needs to put on plays to manufacture runs and help Los Angeles to stay out of those dreaded double plays. The Dodgers will likely continue to have limited scoring chances, so they need to take advantage of every opportunity to win the series. Since the Braves led the NL in home runs, Atlanta can score at any time, so the Dodgers can't settle for a few runs per game.
Although the national media has picked the Dodgers to win the World Series, L.A. needs to score to accomplish this. Sarting pitchers Hyun-Jin Ryu and Ricky Nolasco can defeat Atlanta at home if the Dodgers provide adequate offensive support.