ATLANTA - If you can't get to one Cy Young winner on the Dodgers staff, there's always another.
The Braves managed two runs off Dodgers starter Zack Greinke over six innings, and Braves starter Mike Minor out-dueled him for a 4-3 Braves win in Game 2 of the NLDS, evening the series at 1.
Greinke was without his best command, throwing 55 strikes over 83 pitches, but missing his spots by a hair on many occasions. As a result, he was on the mound for long periods of time, laboring through long innings, and he was out after six. He induced just six swinging strikes and had three strikeouts.
Minor's beginning and end weren't sharp, but the middle innings carried him. He gave up an RBI double to Hanley Ramirez in the first, and allowed three hits in his final six batters faced. He was able to bear down and hold a lead in the sixth, and the bullpen helped him in the seventh.
Minor's middle innings were efficient to the tune of 30 pitches between the third and fifth. He kept the ball down for the most part and avoided hard contact. He struck out five and induced seven swinging strikes, including three on a curveball that was spotty throughout.
"When we scored one off (Greinke) and tied it back up, I felt like I needed to go back out there and have a shutdown inning," Minor said. "Shutdown the rest of the time I'm out there, and do the best I could and give our team, give our hitters, a chance to get another one on the board."
The biggest play came in the seventh with the tying run on third and one out for the Dodgers. With Luis Avilan on the mound, Carl Crawford hit into an inning-ending double play to preserve the lead, worth -.227 WPA.
Although Jason Heyward's two-run single in the seventh eventually became the deciding insurance runs, the Braves held a lead at the time, thus keeping the play's WPA lower. It was still worth .133.
Ramirez's two-run homer in the eighth closed the gap to one run again in the eighth, worth .139. Ramirez hit the ball with one hand, which seems to be a trend for him in the series. He has been noticeably stiff at the plate in the two games, and he has grimaced after whiffs a couple times, leading me to believe he's still battling back pain.
Despite this, Ramirez was the most valuable player in the game, according to WPA, at .314.
"I can't wait to see the home run that Hanley hit, because I think he one-handed it," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
The Braves faced incredibly tough odds if they had gone to Los Angeles down two games. A 1-1 series is much more manageable, and the Braves will have a pitcher going with perhaps the highest talent level on the staff in Julio Teheran for Game 3 on Sunday. Hyun-Jin Ryu, the Dodgers' Game 3 starter, is no walk in the park, and the Braves will continue to have their hands full. But the talent level between the two starting pitchers will be at its closest so far this series in Game 3.
"We really needed it," Minor said. "We needed to even it up. We're going into the next game feeling good."