Teams like the Cubs, Astros, and even Padres are bad enough to evoke sympathy from opposing fans. If there’s a five run deficit, each subsequent run becomes painful. You can almost feel their fans’ suffering. Then there are the Braves. Beating them is not enough; their fans must suffer along with every player on the roster. Getting beat by the Braves is not only a bummer, it is infuriating. Losing is credited not to your team’s failure, but to the fan base’s collective evil. This is why I was incredibly nervous in the hours leading up to Game 1 of the NLDS between the Dodgers and the Braves. Winning would make me euphoric. Losing would put me into malaise for the next 24 hours.
My hatred for Braves fans is not ungrounded. The racist “Ohhh ohh ohhhhhho ohho ohho” tomahawk chant is the single most irritating thing for an opposing sports fan to hear. The limp Styrofoam tomahawks handed out at Turner Field make the hatred complete. When Kris Medlen struck out the side to begin the game, Turner field erupted, and every Dodger fan felt a stab of pain. Not only did Crawford, Ellis, and Ramirez fail to put the ball in play, but they were punched out by a pitcher who looked like he should still be in the 7th grade. Fortunately, however, Kershaw returned the favor in the bottom of the frame. Yet even Kershaw, and all the confidence he brings to the mound, could not keep me off edge. I was going to remain restless until somebody scored.
Puig’s one-out single in the top of the second – though not pretty – eased a bit of the tension. Medlen, distracted by Puig on first, allowed a clean single to Juan Uribe. This single was more significant than Skip Shumaker’s sacrifice fly, because it showed that Medlen was vulnerable. A.J. Ellis’ RBI single to put the Dodgers up 2-0 later in the frame was essentially the winning run. There was no way Kershaw was going to lose ahead by two runs. The rest of the game consisted of watching Kershaw deal. Even though he was far from his best, he still managed to strike out 12 Braves. This was not surprising. The Braves are a home run-strike out team, and Kershaw is not a pitcher who allows home runs. Watching the game without sound made Kershaw’s pitching seem even nastier. When his curve froze a hitter, there was no color commentator to make irrelevant remarks on how Kershaw learned to throw a curveball. It was just Kershaw making major league hitters look silly. This was a fun game to watch. At least from the Dodgers’ perspective because everybody came through in some form. This was more important than Kershaw’s 12 Ks. The Dodgers limped to the finish line, but last night’s game proved that they are back and ready to win.