The National League playoff are set and the Los Angeles Dodgers are headed east to take on the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS opening round series, starting Thursday at Turner Field in Atlanta. A late push by the St. Louis Cardinals gave the Redbirds the top overall seed and forced the Braves/Dodgers series. After Thursday and Friday games in Atlanta the series will head west to Los Angeles for games next Sunday and Monday at Dodger Stadium.
The Braves dominated the season series between the two clubs, winning five of the seven games played included a three game sweep in Atlanta from May 17-19. The Braves strong play against the Dodgers was before the incredible Dodgers run that saw them go from last place to first place in the NL West in a six week span. Additionally the Braves did not face Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw this season, nor have they faced him in the previous two seasons. The one game started by Zack Greinke, the other Dodgers ace, was a Dodgers victory at home on June 7th behind a solid outing by Greinke. The two storied clubs haven’t met in the NL playoffs since 1996 when the Braves swept the Dodgers in a three game NLDS series. Prior to that the Dodgers and then Milwaukee Braves played a three game series to capture the NL pennant in 1959.
The Dodgers starting rotation will be rested and ready to take on the Braves when the series kicks off on Thursday. Ace Clayton Kershaw, the heavy favorite to win his second Cy Young Award, had an extra days rest prior to his final start of the season, where he pitched seven shutout innings to earn his 16th win of the season. Kershaw, perhaps the Dodgers best lefthander since Sandy Koufax, had a miniscule 1.83 ERA on the season. He’ll have five days rest prior to take the mound for the opening game of the series, as will Greinke. The veteran righty Greinke justified his big free agent contract by winning fifteen games versus just three losses. During the second half of the season he was nearly as dominant as Kershaw. The two ace starters will look to steal one or two games in Atlanta and give the Dodgers the opportunity to sweep or win the series when it returns back to Los Angeles. The Braves will start the series with fifteen game winner Kris Medlen, followed by lefty Mike Minor, winner of thirteen games on the season. The key for the Dodgers starting pitchers will be to restrict the long ball and jump out on the Braves early. The Braves led the National League in home runs this season and have several players capable of changing the game on just one swing. Additionally the Braves had the best bullpen in all of baseball behind dominant closer Craig Kimbrel. The big key for the Braves will be solving the riddle that is Clayton Kershaw and jumping out to a series lead. Behind Kershaw’s tremendous regular season the Dodgers had the best starting pitching ERA in all of baseball. Hyun-Jin Ryu will take the mound for the Dodgers in game three, facing Braves righty Julio Teheran. Pitching matchups for the subsequent games are yet to be determined, but the Dodgers are likely counter with Ricky Nolasco in game four, if a game four is needed.