It was a winner-take-all one-game affair so Mathews' shot over the left field fence at the Tigers' compound in Lakeland sent the Dodgers into the championship series against the Red Sox. That best-of-three set starts Wednesday at the Sox base in Fort Myers.
Mathews was signed out of the junior college ranks in Georgia this spring as a draft-and-follow because of his potential as a power-hitting third baseman. He sent three out during the regular season while managing only a .250 average. But none was bigger than his blast in the 10th of this one.
Two triples by Jovanny Rosario plus some strong pitching by Clayton Kershaw, Wayne Renfrow and Mario Gracia carried the Dodgers into the extra inning when with one out, Francisco Lizarraga walked. Preston Mattingly popped up but Mathews drive carried the fence to put the Dodgers ahead.
The Tigers didn't go quietly as the first batters in the bottom of the inning singled .But Gracia, a Mexican righthander, got the next batter to fly out, then induced a ground ball to Lizarraga at short, who started a double play that ended it.
Rosario had delivered the first Dodger run in the third when he tripled to send Lyndon Poole home. The Tigers came back in the fourth, though, when Kershaw faltered,, really for the first time this season.
The lefthander who was the first high schooler taken in the draft last June had seldom walked anybody before but he issued back-to-back passes for the first time in the fourth. Then Andy Ciriaco delivered the longest hit off Kershaw yet, a triple, driving in two.
Kershaw came back, though, for a scoreless fifth, having allowed seven hits- another high-and the two runs. Those two walks were the only ones he gave up while striking out six.
It was the Rosario-Poole combination again to even matters in the fifth when the swift Dominican once more ripped a triple to send in Poole, who had walked.
Wayne Renfrow, an undrafted free agent who had normally been a starter, took over from Kershaw and went 3.1 scoreless. On came Gracia to go matters in check until the end.
Rosario was the only Dodger with two hits as they had only seven in all while the Tigers managed 11.
Now it's the formidable Red Sox, who have gone 15-3 for August to post the league's best record which gained them the bye into the finals. The Dodgers will send the league's top pitcher, righthander Jhonny Nunez against them. Nunez was 6-0 with a 1.58 ERA during the regular season.
The Sox attack is led by Michael Jones, who has hit nine home runs. Their top pitcher is lefthander Felix Doubront, who recorded a 2.52 ERA.
Score by innings Dodgers 001 010 000 2-4 Tigers 000 200 000 0-2 Dodgers ab r h bi ave Rosario RF 5 0 2 2 .400 Herrera 2B 4 0 0 0 .000 Lizarraga SS 4 1 1 0 .250 Mattingly DH 5 0 1 0 .200 Mathews 3B 3 1 1 2 .333 Robinson LF 5 0 0 0 .000 Jansen C 4 0 1 0 .250 Ortiz 1B 4 0 1 0 .250 Poole CF 2 2 0 0 .000 Totals 36 4 7 4 Tigers 36 2 11 2 Error- Herrera. 3B- Rosario 2 (2). HR- Mathews (1). RBI- Rosario 2 (2), Mathews 2 (2). Dodgers 8, Tigers 11. SB- Poole (1), Lizarraga (1), Mattingly (1). CS- Mathews (1), Lizarraga (1). DP- (Lizarraga. Herrera and Ortiz). Dodgers in h r-er bb so era Kershaw 5.0 7 2-2 2 6 3.60 Renfrow 3.1 2 0-0 2 4 0.00 Gracia (1-0) 1.2 2 0-0 1 1 0.00 WP- Kershaw 2, Renfrow 2. HBP- Poole. T- 3-15. Att- 48.