ATLANTA -- What little margin for error the Braves had facing Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 evaporated in the early innings thanks to a few near-misses in the field, raising questions about whether manager Fredi Gonzalez would shuffle his defense for Friday night's Game 2. By leaving Evan Gattis in left field and defending the decisions behind several other pivotal plays the day after Atlanta's 6-1 loss, Gonzalez dispelled those questions and delivered a vote of confidence to his fielders.
"I wasn't disappointed at all on the defense," Gonzalez said. "I think when your guys go out there and lay it on the line, those things are going to happen, but I thought all the things were the right things, other than the execution."
Gattis' ill-fated dive for a liner in the second inning that turned into an RBI double for Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis will be remembered as the flashiest misstep in the field, but the sequence leading to the first Los Angeles run earlier in the frame drew its share of second-guessing as well. Jason Heyward opted not to challenge Yasiel Puig as he went first-to-third on Juan Uribe's single into shallow center, but he did fire home as Puig scored on Skip Schumaker's sacrifice fly, leaving his throw up the line and allowing Uribe to move into scoring position.
Gattis said after the game that if Uribe had been on first at the time of Ellis' at-bat, he would not have taken such an aggressive line on the well-hit liner to his right.
"They're the ones playing the game," Gonzalez said. "I thought the throw home was a good throw -- the right, basic throw. Maybe a little bit high. I thought not throwing the ball to third base -- you're talking about when Puig took it from first, to keep the double play in order -- I thought that was the correct call on Jason's part."
Puig's one-out single to spark the two-run second inning bounced through a hole up the middle widened by Andrelton Simmons playing Puig to pull the ball. According to Gonzalez, the shift was no more dramatic than anything the Braves employed during the regular season, but Puig's base hit was the first of multiple balls that just barely eluded the Braves' standout shortstop on Thursday.
"We normally shift -- not over-shift, or maybe we over-shift a couple of guys during the course of the year," Gonzalez said. "But we thought with [Kris] Medlen pitching and the changeup, that Puig was going to pull the ball a little bit more."
One inning later, Elliot Johnson could not corral a hot shot to second base, a play that enabled the third inning to be extended long enough for Adrian Gonzalez to send a home run over the center-field wall. That two-run shot sealed Medlen's fate and capped a forgettable night for the defense, which was kept intact for the chance to redeem itself in Game 2 less than 24 hours later.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.