ATLANTA -- Brian McCann has spent the past couple of months attempting to avoid questions about his future. But as he drove to Turner Field on Friday afternoon, he could not overlook the fact that he would be preparing for what could potentially be his last home game with the Braves.
But instead of focusing on the riches that await him on the free-agent market, McCann attempted to keep his focus on the challenge that awaited the Braves in Friday evening's Game 2 matchup against the Dodgers in the National League Division Series. Atlanta fell victim to Clayton Kershaw's excellence while losing the opener of this best-of-five series on Thursday night.
To guarantee at least one more home game this year, the Braves will have to win at least two of the next three games.
"When I think about [my future], it's definitely there," McCann said. "But at the same time, I mean, what we're doing here today is way more important than what's going to happen to me after the season. You know, I'm just focused on today's game."
With Tim Hudson sidelined with a fractured right ankle, McCann stands as the longest-tenured Braves player on the NLDS roster. The seven-time All-Star catcher made his Major League debut on June 10, 2005. Four months later in his first career postseason at-bat, he homered off Roger Clemens in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Astros.
McCann's decisive homer off Clemens provided the Braves what stood as their most recent postseason home win entering Friday.
The Braves have now lost Game 1 in eight of the past nine NLDS in which they have participated. Their only series win after losing the opener in any of these best-of-five series came in 1999, when they eliminated the Astros in four games.
"We're professional around here, and some of us have been in this position before," McCann said. "We're just down one game. They threw Kershaw at us; he took it to us. Tip your hat and move on."
Braves keep defense, lineup intact for Game 2
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.