The Los Angeles Dodgers head into the playoffs playing mediocre baseball (Photo credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea, USA TODAY Sports)
Prior to the completion of their 2013 regular season finale on Sunday against the Colorado Rockies, the Los Angeles Dodgers learned the identity of their National League division series opponent — the NL East champions, Atlanta Braves.
Once considered the hottest teams in baseball during the months of July and August, when they were piling up multiple winning streaks, the Dodgers enter the playoffs having gone 5-5 in their last ten games and finished with a 12-15 record during the month of September.
After clinching the NL West division in Arizona and thus a playoff birth, there is some belief the recent struggles can be attributed to a lax mentality the team may have assumed.
However, while the Dodgers did pull back a bit, opting for rest over wins, Don Mattingly often pinch hit in late-game situations with the marquee players who had been given the day off. In hopes of stealing a victory, most times the moves were to no avail.
While the rest may have helped, it certainly didn’t cure the Dodgers. Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, and Yasiel Puig are all suffering from various injuries.
During their staggering finish to the close out the regular season, the Dodgers lost out on the opportunity to secure home field advantage for any potential playoff series.
Adding to the pressure already placed on the Dodgers to perform well in the postseason, ESPN baseball analyst Buster Olney recently said in a radio interview with ESPN LA 710 AM, Mattingly would be fired if the Dodgers were to lose their first round matchup.
A miraculous run put the Dodgers in position to make the playoffs and is it now time for them to cash in on their valiant effort.
Brief preview of NLDS
The Braves won the season series, taking five of the seven games.
However, three of the losses came when the Dodgers visited Atlanta in March, and the two teams split a four game set at Dodger Stadium in early June.
It is difficult to draw any conclusions from the two series the teams played since they both came prior to the Dodgers righting the ship.
The Dodgers’ starting pitching staff boasts the NL’s best ERA at 3.13, and it will certainly be put to the test by the Braves, who are ranked first in the NL with 180 home runs.
As potent as the Braves offense can be, they finished the season with 17 games of no runs scored, which is second most in the NL, and they rank first in the NL with a 22.6% strikeout rate.
With a 2.46 ERA, Braves relievers own the best ERA in the NL for relief pitchers.
Schedule and probables
Game 1: Thursday, October 3, Turner Field: Clayton Kershaw ( 16-9, 1.83) vs. Kris Medlen (15-12, 3.11), time TBA.
Game 2: Friday, October 4, Turner Field: Zack Greinke (15-4, 2.63) vs. Mike Minor (13-9, 3.21), time TBA.
Game 3: Sunday, October 6, Dodger Stadium: Hyun-jin Ryu (xx-x, x.xx) vs. Julio Teheran (13-8, 3.09), time TBA.
*Game 4: Monday, October 7, Dodger Stadium: TBA.
*Game 5: Wednesday, October 9, Turner Field: TBA.
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