Found October 02, 2013 on
Sports Report SoCal:
The National League East champion Braves will open their Division Series against the NL West champion Dodgers in Atlanta on Thursday. The Braves won the season series 5-2, though all seven games were played before Los Angeles’ historic hot streak began in late June, and both teams had losing records in September: 13-14 for Atlanta, 12-15 for L.A. The Braves, who have home-field advantage in the series, had baseball’s best home record while the Dodgers had the best road mark.
Clayton Kershaw is the player to watch throughout this series. The influence of the game’s best starting pitcher is particularly pronounced in a five-game series, and Kershaw, who is scheduled to be on the mound for Games 1 and 5, could get the Dodgers two-thirds of the victories they’ll need to reach the NLCS if he wins both of his outings. Though Kershaw hasn’t faced Atlanta since 2011, he has mowed through the rest of the NL, leading the Senior Circuit with a 1.83 ERA, 236 innings and a 0.92 WHIP.
Braves outfielder Justin Upton, a former NL West resident with the Diamondbacks, has faced the lefty Cy Young favorite the most, going 3-for-29 for a .103 batting average and .368 OPS. The rest of the Braves’ hitters haven’t fared much better: 11-for-83 combined in their careers for a .133 average, .408 OPS and one home run.
Though Atlanta’s Game 1 starter, Kris Medlen, is no slouch — he dominated the Dodgers in two starts this year and was the NL’s player of the month in September while pitching 36 innings with a 1.00 ERA — he’s clearly the underdog in the projected pitching matchups against Kershaw. The onus will be on the Braves to win every game Kershaw doesn’t start.
The key matchup to watch is the Braves bullpen against Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez. Atlanta’s relievers had a 2.46 ERA this season and have been excellent at protecting late-inning leads. They were a majors’ best 71-5 (.934) when leading after six innings, and the composition of that unit includes a bevy of hard-throwing right-handers who have given righty batters fits.
L.A.’s top two hitters this season, Puig and Ramirez, are righthanded. They’ve fared exceedingly well against righty pitching this season — Ramirez has 13 home runs and a 1.001 OPS in 243 such plate appearances while Puig has 13 homers and an .897 OPS in 315 PAs — which will be put to the test by a barrage of Braves flamethrowers from the right side.
Roster Snapshot: Dodgers injuries
Centerfielder Matt Kemp has already been ruled out for the playoffs. Outfielder Andre Ethier has batted once since Sept. 13. Ramirez has not played back-to-back games in just as long. Puig exited a game over the weekend after fouling a ball off his foot. Reserves Nick Punto and Jerry Hairston have also been absent recently. Given this recent spate of injuries, perhaps it’s not surprising that Los Angeles hasn’t played as well down the stretch. For as good as the Dodgers were from mid-June through the end of August — at one point winning 42 of 50 games — they actually finished the season on a sour note by losing 15 of their final 24 games. Ethier may be limited to pinch-hitting in the NLDS, but Puig and Ramirez aren’t expected to be slowed much by their ailments, and Los Angeles will need them at their best.
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: DODGERS IN 5
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