They each lifted their dirt-caked sleeves into the air as if raising an entire city above them.
Yasiel Puig shot a line drive into the right-field corner, scampering and sliding into second base, leaping up with a howl, throwing his arms high.
Juan Uribe then whacked a ball that soared high through the night air and into the left-field bullpen, his bat flipping, his arms flying, summoning a rattle and roar that shook Dodger Stadium to its ancient roots.
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Uribe's home run followed Puig's leadoff double in the eighth inning Monday night to give the Dodgers a 4-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves in the clinching Game 4 of a division series.
"I do it for the fans," Uribe said on a sports-drink splashed field in which owners Mark Walter and Magic Johnson joined the celebration by wrapping the players in giant expensive hugs.
Uribe was doing it for more than the fans. His swing may have not only saved a game, but also eased the potential sting of two questionable decisions that may have put the Dodgers' season in jeopardy.
First, Uribe cleared Manager Don Mattingly of another controversy as his home run came after he fouled off two bunt attempts. Yes, even with none out, the powerful hitter had been ordered to bunt. If the Dodgers didn't overcome their one-run deficit, the second guessing would have soaked the manager instead of the champagne.
"I'm thinking, the playoffs are so stupid, aren't they?" said a relieved Mattingly. "So crazy."
Second, Uribe's hit also rescued the Dodgers from a last-minute, panic-tinged decision to start Clayton Kershaw on three days' rest for the first time in his career. Kershaw apparently begged to do it, and the Dodger relented, but it nearly backfired.
Their tired ace pitched well enough, giving up only two unearned runs and three hits in six innings. The problem was, he didn’t pitch long enough, the short rest forcing him to the dugout after 91 pitches, one of his four shortest outings of the season.
The minute he left, the Dodgers nearly lost. Ronald Belisario gave up a triple to Elliot Johnson on a ball that Puig bumbled with an ill-advised slide into the right-field corner. Then pinch-hitter Jose Costanza singled up the middle to give the Braves a 3-2 lead.
Did Kershaw do better than regularly scheduled starter Ricky Nolasco could have done? Considering Nolasco gave up 17 earned runs in his final three regular-season starts, absolutely. But was it worth the risk that could have left the Dodgers facing an elimination game in Atlanta on Wednesday without their ace? Absolutely not, and here’s hoping the Dodgers don’t try it again this postseason unless they are facing elimination.
"It's a good feeling you end up winning because you don’t have to answer all those questions," Mattingly said. "You try to put guys in the right position and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t ... sometimes it doesn't and then it still works ... that’s what happened tonight."
Indeed, all is well that ends well, at least for now, with the Dodgers now getting three days off before facing either St. Louis or Pittsburgh in the National League Championship Series beginning Friday. Not that they're afraid of anyone, especially not after Monday night, which ended with a champagne-soaked Kershaw hugging Sandy Koufax in the clubhouse and then leading the team in a high-fiving victory lap around a Dodger Stadium filled with fans who wouldn’t leave.
“The thing I want to reiterate is, this is the postseason, I don’t want to take it for granted, I might never get to do this again,’’ said Kershaw. "So if Donnie wanted me to pitch tomorrow, I would."
For a while Monday, the game threatened to be swallowed in the Kershaw controversy. It was a move that defied baseball’s conventional wisdom and could have embarrassed the Dodger brain trust, and perhaps even seriously endangered Mattingly’s job, if it failed.
How fortunate were the Dodgers? Since 2005, there have been 26 occasions when a pitcher has started a postseason game on short rest. This was only the 10th time that pitcher’s team has won.
Entering the game, Kershaw, 25, has pitched more innings this season than at any other time in his six-year career, and he was coming off his second-highest pitch count of the season, an 124-pitch opening game victory in Atlanta. This was a risky move from the start, and will be risky until Kershaw survives his next start.
Forget those days of the 1965 World Series when Koufax threw two shutouts on short rest, including winning Game 7 on an amazing two days' rest. Pitchers were programmed differently then and, of course, Koufax retired with arm problems at age 30. Mattingly said Kershaw was approached by team officials -- plural -- with the idea even before the end of the season. Yet Mattingly said that after Kershaw initially asked for the start, he was refused.
"After Game 1, he was barking right after the game that he was ready for Game 4,’’ Mattingly said. ‘"We're like, no, no, no, no, no." So how did they get to yes? Apparently Kershaw barked enough that management finally caved, potentially making the same mistake that the Lakers made last season by refusing to make Kobe Bryant take a few days off, a move that might have lessened the stress on his eventually torn Achilles tendon.
“We didn’t ask him, he begged to do it," said General Manager Ned Colletti. "He was vehement on this."
Kershaw was still vehement about it late Monday night, saying, "All that other preparation, is he going to be ready, is your arm going to be tired, throw that out the window. It doesn’t matter. You just go."
So on the Dodgers go, wondrously still alive in the second week of October, moving even when moves aren’t working, one swing, two hands, raising the roof of redemption.