Oct 3, 2013, 8:45 AM EDT
You can’t predict baseball, but you can at least lay out the parameters. So let’s take a look at what the Dodgers and Braves have in store for us in the National League Division Series.
Los Angeles Dodgers (92-70) vs. Atlanta Braves (96-66)
Game 1 Today in Atlanta: Clayton Kershaw vs. Kris Medlen
Game 2 Friday in Atlanta: Zack Greinke vs. Mike Minor
Game 3 Sunday in Los Angeles: Julio Teheran vs. Hyun-Jin Ryu
Game 4 (if necessary) Monday in Los Angeles: Freddy Garcia vs. Ricky Nolasco
Game 5 (if necessary) Wednesday in Atlanta
The Dodgers had huge preseason expectations which looked to be dashed after stumbling out of the gate to a 31-42 record which had them 9.5 games back in the NL West as late as June 22. Don Mattingly was assumed to be on the hot seat and the season seemed lost. Then all they did was call up rookie Yasiel Puig and go on a tear and put the division in their rear-view mirror. Most of the headlines about the Dodgers in the second half were about Yasiel Puig’s exploits and the injuries to offensive stars like Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez. The real story of this team, however, is its stellar starting pitching, led by presumptive Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw and a man who would be the ace on just about every other team, Zack Greinke. Indeed, the Dodgers led the NL in ERA.
Atlanta, on the other hand, was in first place every single day of the season except for one day in early April and were never challenged for the NL East crown. Its a team which, for much of the season, featured a feast-or-famine approach at the plate, with lots of homers and lots of strikeouts to go with them. Indeed, Atlanta led the NL in both categories. As the second half progressed, however, a bit more dynamism entered the offense, with outfielder Jason Heyward moving to the leadoff position and B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla increasingly riding the pine. And while the Dodgers have the best pitching around, don’t sleep on the Braves’ staff. They were second in the NL in ERA and their bullpen was the best in the National League.
- The Dodgers and the Braves both stumbled in September, with L.A. posting a record of 12-15 and Atlanta going 13-14. September records can be misleading, however, especially when the teams involved had more or less sewn up their playoff positions before Labor Day. As such, “momentum” — a dubious idea when it comes to the playoffs anyway — is not exactly on the table here.
- While momentum may not always be meaningful, the stuff underlying the poor finishes can matter. In the Dodgers case, injuries loom large. Center fielder Matt Kemp will not appear in the playoffs. Andre Ethier may very well be on the playoff roster, but he has had one plate appearance since September 13. Hanley Ramirez has not played back-to-back games for some time and has nursed multiple injuries during his otherwise outstanding season. Puig fouled a ball off his foot last weekend and has suffered various bumps and bruises.
- Head-to-head matchups are likewise of minimal use here. Yes, the Braves took five of seven in the season series against the Dodgers, but that season series was totally wrapped up by June 9, which was before the Dodgers turned their season around. And they haven’t faced Kershaw since 2011. For all practical purposes, these teams are strangers to one another.
- The Dodgers rotation and the Braves bullpen will be much talked about, but it’s not as if the Braves rotation and Dodgers bullpen are chopped liver. Kris Medlen, Mike Minor and Julio Teheran have been quite good this year, with Medlen being particularly hot in September. Meanwhile, the late season addition of Brian Wilson as the Dodgers setup man and the fact that Kenley Jansen strikes out 13 batters per nine innings makes the Dodgers bullpen formidable indeed.
This would appear to be a very even matchup. The Dodgers fantastic starters against a Braves lineup which, while potent, can look lost against top hurlers. The Braves shutdown bullpen against a Dodgers lineup racked with injuries and, recently anyway, inconsistency. If the games are close, the Braves’ dominant bullpen could be the difference maker, but with Kershaw and Greinke taking three of the five possible starts, the Braves’ offense could find itself tied in knots, preventing them from ever getting close.
This is about as close to a coin-flip as I can see among the four Division Series matchups, but if I have to pick one team, I’ll pick The Dodgers in Five.
May 6, 2015, 7:04 PM EDT
Tigers right fielder J.D. Martinez had batted either fourth or fifth in his first 26 starts this season, but he is 2-for-25 with 16 strikeouts in his last six games …
May 6, 2015, 6:18 PM EDT
Jeff Samardzija officially dropped the appeal of his five-game suspension on Wednesday, temporarily opening a spot in the White Sox starting rotation.
May 6, 2015, 5:25 PM EDT
Acquired from the Braves as part of the Jason Heyward trade this offseason, Walden posted a 0.87 ERA and 12/4 K/BB ratio in 10 innings for the Cardinals.
May 6, 2015, 4:03 PM EDT
Tough news for “Kitten Face.”
May 6, 2015, 3:43 PM EDT
Diamondbacks, Royals, Indians and Mariners.
May 6, 2015, 2:47 PM EDT
May 6, 2015, 2:33 PM EDT
May 6, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
Bonds is a sponsor of a women’s cycling team. And, in cycling, is finding more acceptance and peace than he’s found in baseball in a long, long time.
May 6, 2015, 1:05 PM EDT
Michael Taylor fills in.
May 6, 2015, 12:03 PM EDT
And he’s still only 26 years old.
May 6, 2015, 11:32 AM EDT
There’s a chance for some history on the Say-Hey Kid’s 84th birthday.
May 6, 2015, 11:03 AM EDT
And he is fully justified in being fed up.
Stephen Strasburg left Tuesday’s start after three innings with “discomfort under his shoulder blade”
May 6, 2015, 10:47 AM EDT
“The irritation kind of rattles the cage a little bit.”
May 6, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT
Two years ago Hochevar a 1.92 ERA and 82/17 K/BB ratio in 70 innings.
May 6, 2015, 9:36 AM EDT
In my day we called it a benching.
May 6, 2015, 9:01 AM EDT
A new report on the incident suggests that the umpire was just as much an aggressor as Jacoby was.
May 6, 2015, 8:39 AM EDT
We should hear about Verlander’s status sometime today.
May 6, 2015, 7:04 AM EDT
This is easily the most photo and video-heavy ATH of all time. Mostly because pitchers did things with bats and teams wore throwbacks last night.
May 5, 2015, 11:46 PM EDT
The 32-year-old righty is expected to be out 6-8 weeks.
May 5, 2015, 11:00 PM EDT
George Springer has been robbing opponents all season, and he did it again Tuesday night …
- Carlos Rodon to make first MLB start Saturday 0
- Bryce Harper’s underrated day: Three at-bats, three homers 40
- Tigers, doctors clear Justin Verlander to resume throwing 9
- Brook Jacoby and umpire Doug Eddings were in a “loud, obscenity-laced, nose-to-nose exchange” 55
- And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights 143
- Devin Mesoraco could need hip surgery 11
- Alex Cobb confirmed to have elbow ligament tear 14
- Royals expected to get closer Greg Holland back tomorrow 3
- And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights (143)
- Torii Hunter doesn’t care what Floyd Mayweather has done outside of the boxing ring (140)
- Buck Showalter had some wise words about what’s happening in Baltimore (123)
- Some anti-DH counterpoints (102)
- And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights (98)