Fredi: Simmons shows a knack on defense
Braves shortstop front, center for crucial plays in NLDS Game 2 victory
LOS ANGELES -- Andrelton Simmons' rocket arm and great range enabled him to produce some of the greatest defensive metrics ever recorded by a Major League shortstop. But his tremendous baseball IQ may not be recognized by those who have simply seen the countless jaw-dropping, highlight-reel plays he has created this season.
"He's got a knack," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, whose team will face the Dodgers in Game 3 of the National League Division Series on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on TBS. "He's got a clock, court awareness, whatever you want to call it for the game that you can't teach."
Much of the polarizing buzz surrounding Atlanta's 4-3 win in Game 2 of the NLDS on Friday night centered around whether Dodgers pinch-runner Dee Gordon was correctly called out while attempting to steal second with one out in the ninth inning.
Manager Don Mattingly and his players contend Gordon was safe. Gonzalez and the rest of the Braves' contingent obviously believe second-base umpire Bill Miler made the right call. A freeze-frame photo that has circulated through the social media world over the past 24 hours indicates Simmons did indeed tag Gordon before he reached the bag.
"After watching it on replay and watching it, [Miller] got it right," Gonzalez said. "Simmons is amazing."
Backup catcher Gerald Laird's strong throw provided Simmons the opportunity to gain the favorable ruling from Miller. Gordon might have indeed been safe had Simmons instinctively moved toward the short-hopped throw before making a tag that was just as quick and instinctual as the between-the-legs tag he made to prevent Cincinnati's Shin-Soo Choo from stealing second on May 6.
"I could see the ball was going to bounce and I was not going to have a lot of time," Simmons said. "So, I knew I had to do something quick instead of just coming down [with the tag]. I wasn't really trying to block him. I was just trying to go down with the ball. The closer you are to the ball, the better chance you have to get him."
Two innings before applying this quick tag, Simmons used his powerful arm to retire the speedy Carl Crawford at the end of the improbable 1-6-3 double play that allowed Luis Avilan escape the one-out, runners at the corners threat that he inherited with the Braves leading by one run in the seventh.
"He's just a special guy defensively," Gonzalez said. "Here's a guy, somebody asks me what is the best play you've ever seen him make? My patent answer is the next one because you just never know."
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Avilan became the second pitcher in Major League postseason history to start an inning-ending 1-6-3 double play with the potential tying run on third base. Cleveland's Bob Lemon also did it in Game 6 of the 1948 World Series against the Boston Braves.
Kimbrel to get extra relief work if necessary
LOS ANGELES -- If the right situation arises again during Game 3 of the National League Division Series on Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET on TBS, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he will not be hesitant to once again entrust closer Craig Kimbrel with the task of recording more than three outs.
Kimbrel recorded the final four outs to seal Friday night's 4-3 win over the Dodgers in Game 2 that evened this best-of-five series. In doing so, he became the sixth different Braves pitcher, and first since John Smoltz in Game 1 of the 2001 NLDS, to record a multi-inning save in a postseason game.
Before David Carpenter allowed the Dodgers to cut their deficit to one run in Friday's eighth inning, Gonzalez was already planning to bring Kimbrel in before the ninth inning.
"[Kimbrel] hadn't pitched since last Sunday, and we're going with the off-day [on Saturday]," Gonzalez said. "He felt pretty comfortable that he could handle that. I think tomorrow, he could do it again."
While Kimbrel might be physically capable of handling the task, the opportunity to create a four-out save situation is more difficult in the National League because of the need to find a suitable spot in the lineup to place the closer with the hope his spot would not come up to hit. This also creates the need to remove a position player, who could be needed later if the save is not converted.
"You don't want to take players out or your best defense out to do that," Gonzalez said. "Sometimes, you've just got to bite the bullet and hopefully somebody that you bring in does his job, and you get somebody out."
Garcia locked in to start Game 4 vs. Dodgers
LOS ANGELES -- Manager Fredi Gonzalez's answer still hasn't changed. Win or lose in Game 3 of the National League Division Series on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on TBS, veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia will get the ball for the Braves in Game 4 on Monday night at Dodger Stadium.
When asked if he's certain that nothing will change his mind, Gonzalez raised one hand in the air as if to swear an oath and said, "yes."
"You sounded like a lawyer there," the Braves manager joked.
With the Braves and Dodgers currently tied at one game apiece in the best-of-five series, Garcia will get the ball on Monday with either a chance to clinch or a chance to stave off elimination.
It's an exciting prospect for Garcia, who spent much of the season struggling in the Baltimore organization. Since he was acquired by the Braves in August, Garcia has posted an ERA of 1.65 in six outings, and he has notched a WHIP of just over one.
"It's an opportunity to win a big game," Garcia said. "It's nice. It's huge for me. I've just got to be me, don't shake anything, and pitch the way I pitch."
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, on the other hand, didn't fully commit, but he said he's still planning on employing No. 4 starter Ricky Nolasco in Game 4. (Though he didn't swear any oaths.) The other option would be Cy Young Award favorite Clayton Kershaw, and when asked in which game he'd like to face the Dodgers' ace, Gonzalez's response was simple:
"Neither of them," he said.