Dodgers Oust Braves as Cardinals Force Decider, Rays Avoid Sweep

Juan Uribe’s two-run homer in the eighth inning sent the Los Angeles Dodgers to the National League Championship Series with a 4-3 victory that eliminated the Atlanta Braves from the Major League Baseball playoffs.

The Dodgers next will face the St. Louis Cardinals or the Pittsburgh Pirates, who will play a decisive Game 5 tomorrow in their playoff series. Cardinals rookie Michael Wacha came within five outs of pitching the third postseason no-hitter in MLB history in a 2-1 win yesterday at Pittsburgh that sent the series back to St. Louis.

The Tampa Bay Rays stayed alive in the American League playoffs against the Boston Red Sox, winning 5-4 on a game-ending home run by Jose Lobaton, while the Oakland Athletics took a two-games-to-one lead over the Detroit Tigers in the other AL division series with a 6-3 victory.

“I feel good,” Uribe said in a televised on-field interview before getting drenched by bucket-toting teammates. “At the moment, I came up with something big.”

The Dodgers, who won the series three games to one, trailed by a run before Uribe’s home run.

Carl Crawford hit solo homers for the Dodgers in the first and third innings. The Braves tied it in the fourth on a run-scoring single by Chris Johnson and a groundout by Andrelton Simmons, and took a 3-2 lead in the seventh on a single by pinch-hitter Jose Constanza after Elliot Johnson had tripled.

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw started on three days’ rest for the first time in his career, allowing two unearned runs on three hits in six innings. He did not figure in the decision. The Cardinals’ Wacha, 22, had a no-hitter until Pedro Alvarez hit a solo home run with one out in the eighth inning. The only other baserunners Wacha allowed came on a pair of walks to Russell Martin in the sixth and eighth innings.

Wacha’s Mastery

“I don’t know if you can put a kid in a tougher spot,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “He came out and just made pitches all day long. He’s just got a knack of getting up there and very business-like getting the job done.”

Wacha, who had nine strikeouts yesterday, lost a no-hitter on an infield single with two outs in the ninth inning in his previous start Sept. 24 against the Washington Nationals.

The only two pitchers who have thrown postseason no-hitters are Don Larsen of the New York Yankees, who tossed a perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1956 World Series, and Roy Halladay, who had a no-hitter for the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2010 playoffs against the Cincinnati Reds.

Matt Holliday hit a two-run homer in the sixth for the Cardinals’ only runs.

Pool Shot

Lobaton’s home run with two outs in the ninth inning went into a pool in the right-field stands at Tropicana Field to give the host Rays their first win in the best-of-five series. Tampa Bay, which was outscored 19-6 in losing the first two games in Boston, hosts Game 4 today.

The Red Sox scored on a throwing error, a wild pitch and David Ortiz’s single to take a 3-0 lead. Evan Longoria tied the game with a three-run homer in the fifth inning.

Tampa Bay took a 4-3 lead in the eighth on a run-scoring groundout by pinch-hitter Delmon Young, only to have Boston tie it in the ninth when pinch runner Xander Bogaerts scored on Dustin Pedroia’s groundout.

Earlier yesterday, Josh Reddick, Brandon Moss and Seth Smith hit home runs as the Athletics won at Detroit. Oakland can advance to the AL Championship Series with a win in Game 4 today in Detroit.

Oakland’s Scoring

After the A’s and Tigers combined to score six runs while splitting the first two games of the series in Oakland, they scored nine runs in a three-inning span yesterday at Comerica Park in Detroit.

Oakland opened the scoring on an error in the third inning. Reddick hit a solo home run and Coco Crisp added a sacrifice fly in the fourth to give the A’s a 3-0 lead.

The Tigers responded with three runs in their half of the fourth inning to tie the game. Victor Martinez had a run-scoring double and Jhonny Peralta added a two-run single.

Oakland came back with three runs in the fifth, on a solo home run by Moss and a two-run shot by Smith, both off Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez.

Moss, who struck out in his three other at-bats yesterday, now has nine strikeouts in the series.

“I made contact,” Moss said in an on-field interview. “It’s just one of those things, I strike out a lot. You got to go up and be who you are, and finally I didn’t miss one.”

The game featured a verbal exchange in the ninth inning between Oakland reliever Grant Balfour and Martinez, who walked to the mound while he and Balfour yelled at each other. Both benches emptied, but no punches were thrown and no players were ejected from the game.

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