Atlanta relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel (46) reacts during the Braves’ 4-3 win over Los Angeles in Game 2 of their playoff series Friday at Turner Field. (Daniel Shirey/USA Today Sports)
ATLANTA — Having survived the gauntlet of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, the Atlanta Braves are headed to Los Angeles tied with the Dodgers in their National League Division Series.
Mike Minor turned in a quality start, Jason Heyward supplied a key two-out hit and Craig Kimbrel recorded a four-out save as the Braves held on for a 4-3 victory on Friday night before a crowd of 48,966 at Turner Field.
“Hopefully they won’t all be that close,” said Braves third baseman Chris Johnson, who had two hits and drove in a run. “It is fun now, but it wasn’t so much fun at times during the game.”
Hanley Ramirez hit a two-run homer for the Dodgers off David Carpenter in the eighth inning, but Kimbrel — the major league leader with 50 saves during the regular season — closed it out in the ninth despite two walks.
“You always try to tell yourself to calm down,” Kimbrel said. “It’s a little big easier said than done. … Nobody wanted to go to LA down two games.”
The victory snapped a four-game postseason losing streak for the Braves and evened the best-of-five NLDS at 1-1 with the next two games in Los Angeles on Sunday and Monday.
If needed, Game 5 would be next Wednesday in Atlanta, where the Braves led the majors with a 55-26 record during the regular season.
Ramirez had two doubles in addition to his homer as the Dodgers, who won 6-1 in the opener behind Kershaw’s 12 strikeouts, outhit the Braves 10-6, but had their seven-game postseason winning streak snapped.
Dee Gordon, pinch running in the ninth, was thrown out trying to steal on a close play and Kimbrel struck out Carl Crawford to end the game after a second walk in the inning.
“We thought he was safe,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.
“He had a pretty good lead and I knew I had to get rid of it fast,” said Gerald Laird, who had come in behind the plate for Brian McCann.
Minor, who lost his last four regular-season decisions, allowed eight hits in 6 1/3 innings. He walked just one to go with five strikeouts, though, and made his best pitches when needed the most.
“He’s maturing as a pitcher,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “I thought he was terrific.”
Minor struck out Juan Uribe on a 3-2 curveball with runners on the corners to get out of a sixth-inning jam and Luis Avilan induced a double play to keep the Braves ahead in the seventh.
Greinke, who was 15-4 with a 2.63 ERA during the regular season, gave up four hits and two runs in six innings, walking none and striking out three.
The Dodgers’ bullpen, though, couldn’t hold it there. After Chris Withrow was pulled with runners at second and third and two outs in the seventh, left-hander Paco Rodriguez was ordered to intentionally walk Reed Johnson, who had replaced Jose Constanza as the pinch hitter, to load the bases.
Heyward, who suffered a broken jaw in August when hit by a pitch, came through with a single up the middle on a 2-1 slider to give the Braves a three-run lead and a cushion they ended up needing.
All the Braves runs scored with two outs.
“I’m glad to have an opportunity to come through big for my team,” Heyward said. “I got a pitch and didn’t miss it.”
Carpenter walked Mark Ellis leading off the eighth and Ramirez pulled a 0-1 slider just over the fence near the foul pole in left field.
The Dodgers got on the board in the first inning. Minor walked Ellis after getting ahead in the count 0-2 and Ramirez gave Los Angeles the lead with a double into the right field corner on a 2-2 fastball.
“Initially I thought it was one of those first things again,” said Minor, who struggled early near the end of the season. “But I felt like I was pretty close to making some good pitches.”
A double play helped Minor work around two singles in the second inning before the Braves scored with two outs in the bottom of the inning when Andrelton Simmons doubled to drive in Evan Gattis, who had opened the inning with a single.
In the fourth, the Braves took a 2-1 lead when Chris Johnson bounced a two-out single to left field to score Freeman, who had doubled to start the inning. Johnson hit .390 and had 39 of his 68 RBIs in similar situations during the regular season.
“I wouldn’t say it was a must win, because we were going to LA anyway,” said Johnson. “But it was good to play Braves baseball and get a win like this. You don’t want to be down 0-2. It will be a happy flight.”
NOTES: Braves RHP Julio Teheran (14-8, 3.20 ERA) will face Dodgers LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu (14-8, 3.00 ERA) on Sunday at 8:07 p.m. ET when the NLDS moves to Los Angeles after a travel day on Saturday. … Teheran and Ryu tied for the second-most victories among major league rookies behind St. Louis RHP Shelby Miller, who was 15-9. … Neither team made any lineup changes from Game 1. … Bobby Cox, who managed the Braves to 14 consecutive division titles, threw out the ceremonial first pitch and got a thunderous ovation. … Former Braves 3B Chipper Jones, who retired after the 2012 season, did the honors for Game 1. … The Braves won the regular-season series 5-2 over the Dodgers, sweeping three games in Atlanta during mid-May.