NL Playoff Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers At Atlanta Braves
Thursday marks the beginning of what should be a great NLDS (National League Divisional Series) match-up between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves. The Braves enter the series with home field advantage after earning the number two seed in the National League.
The Dodgers enter the postseason with arguably the best starting rotation as the Braves enter with one of the more underrated and young starting rotations. The injury to Braves’ outfielder Jason Heyward has exposed the tribe briefly, but he is now healthy and looking to leadoff for Atlanta.
The Braves desperately needed Heyward back to bat leadoff in their lineup, however this series will come down to the better pitching staff. Both teams are evenly matched on the mound but it is the Atlanta bullpen that seems to have been more reliable throughout the course of the season. This matchup will truly push each team to their limits as we take a look at the upcoming series.
Game 1: Los Angeles Dodgers @ Atlanta Braves – Thursday, Oct. 3rd/8:30 pm – TBS
The Braves will start Kris Medlen (15-12, 3.11) for a very important game one. Medlen has been consistent for most of the season, although there have been games where the young righty has struggled against good lineups. Medlen’s performance is imperative as he will face the Dodgers’ former Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw (16-9, 1.83).
The Braves’ bats will need to come alive if Atlanta has any chance against Kershaw and the Dodgers. It’s not like Kershaw to give up many runs, let alone enough runs to warrant a beat down. If Medlen can hold the Dodgers run total to four or less then Atlanta has a shot at winning the first game. It’s unlikely to see Kershaw let Atlanta string a bunch of hits and eventual runs against him, but pending a Medlen performance it’s not unrealistic to see the Braves beat Kershaw or the Dodgers’ bullpen.
Pick: LAD 5-2
Game 2: Los Angeles Dodgers @ Atlanta Braves – Friday, Oct. 4th/6:00 pm – TBS
Game two will be a must win game with a best of three series in tact, and both teams have solid pitchers to help lead them. The Dodgers enter game two with another former Cy Young award winner in Zack Greinke (15-4, 2.63). Greinke has been just as impressive as Kershaw has this year, recording 15 wins and less than five losses.
Although nothing has been officially set, the Braves intend on starting the lefty Mike Minor (13-9, 3.21) for game two against Los Angeles. Minor may be one of the best kept secrets in baseball with pitching over 200 innings this season and allowing less than 80 total runs.
The Dodgers would like to see the game come down to Greinke pitching with a lead, but for that to happen the Dodgers’ bats will have to jump onto Minor early and not let up. Minor will sometimes struggle early, but rarely often. Minor is one of the better pitchers when giving up an early lead then shutting teams down the rest of the game. With Greinke on the mound Minor can’t afford to give up an early lead.
Pick: ATL 4-3
Game 3: Atlanta Braves @ Los Angeles Dodgers – Sunday, Oct. 6th/TBD – TBS
Julio Teheran (14-8, 3.20) will more than likely get the start for Atlanta in game three, despite whatever the series score may be at this time. Teheran is one of the best young pitchers in the game today with close to 15 wins. Another young pitcher will also more than likely see the mound as the Dodgers’ Hyun-jin Ryu (14-8, 3.00) looks primed for a game three start.
Both pitchers enter game three with very little to no playoff experience. This is a game where both team’s bats will need to look to strike early and often. This game could very well come down to each team’s bullpens if the bats take advantage of the inexperienced pitchers.
Pick: ATL 6-5
Going into depth for games four through five would be unfair considering the series could be over after three games, so here’s the rest of the schedule for this NLDS matchup:
Game 4: (if necessary) Atlanta @ Los Angeles – Monday, Oct. 7th/TBD – TBS/MLBN
Game 5: (if necessary) Los Angeles @ Atlanta – Wednesday, Oct. 9th/TBD – TBS
This series is evenly matched on both the mound and on the lineup card. This will be a very close and tightly contested series as were the regular season match ups this year. The Dodgers’ success in this series will have to come from their starting three pitchers in Kershaw, Greinke and Ryu but also their bats. As good as the Dodgers’ starting pitching is it will ultimately come down to the Los Angeles bats, in particular Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzlaez will have to be the run driver throughout the entire series for Los Angeles to beat Atlanta.
Atlanta’s success will have to come from solid performances from their young pitching staff and bullpen. If the young arms in Atlanta’s starting rotation can beat or hang with Kershaw and Greinke, then there’s not much else the Braves need to do other than hit timely. The Braves have been excellent at getting hits at the most crucial of times this season, which means Atlanta needs the top of their order (Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Freddie Freeman) to hit well, especially with runners on base. Timely hits can win or lose the series for Atlanta who will send a lot of different players to the plate throughout the series.
Pick: ATL in five (3-2)
2013 Season Series Score: ATL 5-2