Now that the Dodgers collected their 12th National League West Division title, they will head to Atlanta to clash with the Braves for a five-game series opening this Thursday. The Dodgers were swept in three games during their regular season series versus the Braves back in May at Turner Field, but the Dodgers were also fielding Luis Cruz and starting Matt Magill at that time. In June, the Dodgers and Braves split a four-game set at Dodger Stadium. Can the Dodgers squelch that annoying Tomahawk Chop in the land of peaches and return home with at least one win after the first two games? With such a short series to work with, Don Mattingly will have to avoid the dreaded TOOTBLAN, offensive paralysis, and his extreme love of bunting in order to defeat a very tough Atlanta team.
At least the Dodgers don’t have to play in a do or die Wild Card game or tiebreaker game. On Monday night we watched the Texas Rangers get knocked out against David Price and the Tampa Bay Rays in game 163. Price was dominant, and the Rangers couldn’t muster much against him and once again failed miserably in their efforts to win a championship within the recent years. Dodger fans know how choking in the playoffs can feel, but the Rangers just take that to a whole new level.
I don’t want to see Yasiel Puig bunting. I don’t want to see Tim Wallach‘s arm helicoptering a slow runner home only for him to be mowed down at the plate. I don’t want to see Brandon League anywhere in the vicinity of the team. I don’t want to see unnecessary double switches or bullpen mismanagement. I don’t want to see any more injuries.
I do want to see aggressiveness at the plate. The Dodgers were notorious for coming back in late innings during their magical streak, but can we please score early and score often? The Dodgers will need to score early so that they can avoid Craig Kimbrel at all costs. Like Kenley Jansen for the Dodgers, Kimbrel has been a dominant closer. The 25-year old right-hander has pitched in 68 games for Atlanta this season, and he has a miniscule 1.21 ERA and 50 saves. He’s struck out 98 while only walking 20 batters all season. His SO/9 is 13.2 which has dipped from 16.7 last season. The All-Star reliever holds a 0.75 ERA against the Dodgers over his career with 26 strikeouts in 12 innings. He’s never allowed a homerun to the Dodgers. The Dodgers offense will need to get them ahead early on so they do not have to contend with Kimbrel.
Rookie Evan Gattis scares me. The big right-handed slugger collected 21 homeruns this season (including 4 as a pinch-hitter) and played outfield and catcher. Gattis hit a homerun against Kenley Jansen in Atlanta back on May 18th as a pinch-hitter during that disaster of a series sweep.
Brian McCann has anger issues, but he is still a threat with the bat. Will the catcher
block home plate after Yasiel Puig bat flip’s after his game-winning homerun in the NLDS?
Overall the Braves are heavy hitters, and the Dodgers will need offense in order to keep up. With Clayton Kershaw on the mound for game one on Thursday, the Dodgers will need to hone in on that first win to put them in a good position for when they return to Los Angeles. Winning at least one of two of the first games in Atlanta is key. The Braves will have to beat the best pitcher in baseball, and then they will need to beat Zack Greinke as well.
The continual injuries have really plagued the Dodgers this season. After a losing September, the team is partially limping into the postseason sans a healthy center fielder. Matt Kemp is done for the season, and although it wasn’t a shocking turn of events, it still stings to see him maneuvering on crutches during the Dodgers postseason rally on Sunday. Andre Ethier is still rehabbing his sore ankle, and it is unclear whether Dre will be available to play in the field for the NLDS. Ethier will be evaluated on Tuesday to determine his status, but the decision on Dre could come minutes before the rosters are due on Thursday morning. I am sure Ethier is chomping at the bit to play in the NLDS, and I have a feeling he will be okay to play. Ethier has been crucial this season while filling in admirably in center field, and it would be disappointing if the long-tenured Dodger wouldn’t be able to play in the NLDS.
Can the Dodgers win in the postseason without a center fielder? If Dre can’t play, the Dodgers would be forced to start Skip Schumaker in center field. Puig is just too inexperienced and wild out in center, and he is much better in right field. Schumaker is capable, but he would definitely be a downgrade from Ethier in the field and at the plate. Schumaker does have postseason experience. He’s appeared in 5 postseason series, and he is hitting .278 with 10 hits in 22 postseason games over his career all with St. Louis.
It is bittersweet not to see Matt Kemp, Scott Elbert, Chad Billingsley, and possibly Andre Ethier not playing with the Dodgers this October. The longest tenured Dodgers will not be part of this historic era of Dodger baseball. While Matt Kemp will be the best cheerleader he can be, it will be up to the new money Dodgers to provide the spark to ignite a golden postseason run. 11 wins.
Back in the 1990′s the Braves were dominant and annoyed me plenty with their Tomahawk Chop in Atlanta. Even though Turner Field hasn’t been drawing as many fans as Atlanta once did back in those dominant years, I expect Turner Field to be a hostile environment for the Dodgers. The Dodgers, who have played well on the road, will have to forget that nightmarish series in Atlanta earlier in the season, and turn on the offensive light switch this series. One mistake, one Hanley error, one base running blunder, one failed bunt attempt could cost the Dodgers the series and chance at the trophy.
October Dodger baseball is here! This is what we have been waiting for since 2009.
NLDS: Dodgers win in 5 games- Hanley Ramirez M.V.P.
What’s your predictions? Let us know in the comments!
Go Blue! Stop the Chop!