NLDS Preview: Atlanta Braves vs Los Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles Dodgers (2), 92-70, hosting the Atlanta Braves (3), 90-72.
- The Dodgers and Braves squared off against each other seven times this regular season. Los Angeles dominated those match-ups, winning five of them and outscoring Atlanta 35-18. In early June, the Dodgers took two of three when visiting the Braves, and then three of four when the Braves visited the west coast in late July.
- The Braves are in the playoffs for the first time since 2013, while the Dodgers are in the post-season for the sixth straight season, having won the NL West in all of those years.
- Dodgers pitchers led the National League in both strikeouts, ERA (3.38), and WHIP (1.152), while the team’s hitters ranked first in runs scored (804), home runs (235), and OPS (.774).
- The Braves, meanwhile, were second in the NL in batting average (.257), 6th in OPS (.742), which helped them rank 5th in runs scored (759) despite the team hitting eleven home runs behind the league average (175). The pitchers finished with a 3.75 ERA and a 1.284 WHIP.
Dodgers Player to Watch: SP Clayton Kershaw
Limited to under 162 innings pitched this season, Kershaw still managed to finish 9-5 with a 2.73 ERA while striking out 8.6 per nine innings, the lowest of his career since his rookie season in 2008.
But the real reason to watch this dominant southpaw this October is because he’s always struggled in the playoffs, from losing Game 6 of the NLCS to the Cardinals in 2013 to his ERA ballooning last post-season in the NLDS against the Diamondbacks (5.68) and in the World Series against the Houston Astros (4.02).
He’s not starting Game 1 for the Dodgers, but could very well end up starting a pivotal Game 2 and possibly a do-or-die Game 5.
Braves Player to Watch: 1B Freddie Freeman
Freeman, a left-handed hitting first-baseman, will be key to the Braves’ success, especially in the first two games in Los Angeles. The Dodgers will be starting a pair of left-handed pitchers: Hyun-Jin Ryu and Kershaw.
Even with breakout rookies Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna in the lineup for most of the season, Freeman paced the Braves, leading the club in WAR, hits, doubles, RBIs, and total bases. Thankfully for Atlanta, he hit .309 against left-handed pitchers this season and even had a higher OPS against them than right-handed pitchers.
For the Braves to have a fighting chance, Freeman will have to maintain or surpass those numbers.
Prediction: Dodgers, 3-1
The Dodgers are an experienced club that knows how to win in October. Heck, they’ve already won one game this month, a divisional tiebreaker against the Colorado Rockies. But this is also an aging squad, one that fell short in the Fall Classic last season. The window may be closing, yet it seems like the Dodgers are too strong to fall to a burgeoning Atlanta team. Look for the Dodgers to take this series, three games to one or in an outright sweep.