Game 2 of the NLDS between the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers was one of the more entertaining, edge of your seat baseball games one will have the pleasure of watching. It had it all with clutch pitching, close defensive plays and even a home run from the away team, but of the three biggest moments of the game, two of the plays were executed in large part due to the Braves’ third string catcher Gerald Laird and a bullpen reliever Luis Avilan.
Combined their salaries are less than $2 million in 2013, but they earned that money and then some when they made potentially game saving plays during the late innings of Game 2. Avilan’s backhanded pick and unhesitating courage to begin a 1-6-3 double play with the tying run on third base was the biggest double play of the season without a doubt. Many pitchers in that situation do one of two things: They either take the safe play and throw to first which ties the game up or they rush the throw to second and the ball ends up in the outfield. Avilan did neither; he took the minute amount of leeway he had and set his feet so he could make a proper throw to Andrelton Simmons and let him do the rest.
Laird’s big moment came in the top of the ninth with the best closer on Earth standing on the mound. While Craig Kimbrel throws heat, he’s slow to the plate mechanically which leaves him susceptible to stolen base attempts. After Brian McCann was taken out of the game in earlier innings I expected Laird to be able to do McCann’s job competently, but never did I expect him to excel in the moment as he did. When Dee Gordon began to sprint toward second, Laird released the ball to Simmons as fast as he possibly could on a perfect throw to second. If you watch the ultra-slow replays, you’ll see that the play was perfect; it couldn’t have been made any other way.
With many more postseason games hopefully ahead for the Braves yet this October, I think we’ll see more unexpected heroes step up when the going gets tough.