LOS ANGELES (AP) — As the celebration raged around them, Sandy Koufax sought out Clayton Kershaw in the hazy mist of the clubhouse for a hug.
Koufax, whose blazing fastball dominated baseball in the mid-1960s, removed the protective goggles from his eyes and rested his arms on Kershaw’s broad shoulders.
From the franchise’s old left-handed ace to its current young southpaw, a smiling Koufax looked Kershaw in the eyes and bestowed his congratulations. The Dodgers had advanced to their 10th National League championship series with a 4-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Monday night.
“To get a hug and get a ‘good job’ from a guy like that, from a guy that’s been there, from a guy that’s done this before and was the best at it for a long time is pretty special,” Kershaw said. “He genuinely cares about not only this team but kind of our well-being. He cares about us. That’s awesome.”
The NL West champions open the next round Friday against St. Louis or Pittsburgh. The Cardinals host the wild-card Pirates in a winner-take-all Game 5 on Wednesday.
“We’ve moved one step closer,” said Don Mattingly, managing in the playoffs for the first time.
Juan Uribe hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the eighth inning after Kershaw started on short rest for the Dodgers, who reached the NLCS for the first time since 2009.
“It was a special night to get to do it here in L.A.,” said Kershaw, his hair slick from the spray of beer and champagne. “We haven’t won anything yet, but it definitely feels good to get to celebrate. You never want to pass those moments up.”
Carl Crawford homered his first two times up and the Dodgers won the best-of-five playoff 3-1.
“This does not get old. I love the champagne. I love the burning sensation in my eyes,” center fielder Skip Schumaker said. “A lot of these guys have never experienced the moving on to the next round and I’m happy for them.”
Yasiel Puig doubled down the right-field line leading off the eighth against losing pitcher David Carpenter. The rookie charged into second base and pumped his right fist in the air.
Fans were on their feet chanting “Let’s go Dodgers!” when Uribe fouled off two bunt attempts. Then he sent a hanging 2-2 breaking ball into the Dodgers’ bullpen in left field to put them in front for the second time.
Uribe knew it was gone as soon as he connected. He dropped his bat and threw both arms in the air at home plate.
“This moment today I’ll never forget,” he said. “I think a lot of people feel like that.”
Meanwhile, it was the latest October flop for Atlanta, which hasn’t won a postseason series since 2001. During that stretch, the Braves have lost seven straight playoff series and the 2012 NL wild-card game.
“To end the way it did tonight, it’s going to hurt. It’s going to be a long way back,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “But tip your hat to the Dodgers and congratulate Donnie and his staff. The sad thing is there are no more games, you know?”
Brian Wilson pitched a scoreless eighth to get the victory. Kenley Jansen struck out all three batters in the ninth for a save, fanning Justin Upton to end it.
That set off a raucous celebration on the field by the Dodgers, who rushed toward the mound in a mob. They tore jerseys off each other in unbridled excitement and doused Uribe with a bright-colored sports drink.
“This team has a lot of fun. We don’t think about being the team to beat and all that stuff. We just go out there and play and try to have fun,” Crawford said.