M. Ellis 2B
A.J. Ellis C
The Dodgers couldn’t have asked for a better outcome in the first game of the NLDS on Thursday evening in Atlanta. Clayton Kershaw struck out a dozen Braves hitters in what was an epic performance by the left-hander. We all know that Kershaw is arguably the best pitcher in baseball, but on Thursday evening he made it abundantly clear on a national level that he is this generation’s Sandy Koufax. Kershaw didn’t even have his curveball working for the first four innings, but his nasty slider helped him bridge the gap. The fifth inning was the turning point in Kershaw’s start, and his breaking ball helped him strike out the side. Kershaw continued to dominate through seven frames, and the Braves could only muster one run on just three hits against him.
Most of the Atlanta hits were bloopers, and the Dodgers were able to keep the Braves in the park throughout the night. There was one moment when Carl Crawford made a great catch against the wall on a Brian McCann hit ball, but other than that threat the Braves went quietly into the night. The fans were doing their Tomahawk Chop shtick off and on throughout the game, but the Dodgers didn’t let that annoying chant rattle them. They came on a mission, and mission accomplished for game one. Now up 1-0 in the series, the Dodgers will look to Zack Greinke to give them a 2-0 lead in the series in order to bring the series back to Dodger Stadium with hopes of clinching in front of a home crowd.
Zack Greinke is an ace in his own right. There’s a reason the Dodgers paid the right-hander a cool $147 million this past offseason. The Cy Young winner has been dynamite as a Dodger this season despite suffering a broken collarbone after a run-in with resident NL thug Carlos Quentin earlier in the year. Greinke was named the NL Pitcher of the Month for August after winning six decisions in a row from August 5th-September 1st. Greinke faced Atlanta once this season back on June 6th at Dodger Stadium. He pitched 7 shutout innings while only allowing 4 hits in the win. Overall in his career, Greinke is 1-1 with a 3.50 ERA against the Braves in 3 games started. He is 0-1 with a 5.73 ERA in 2 career starts at Turner Field. Brian McCann hit a homerun off Greinke back in 2010 when he was still with the Royals, and Justin Upton is hitting well against him with two homeruns in the past. Greinke has appeared in two postseason series with Milwaukee in 2011 (1 NLDS and 1 NLCS), and he is 1-1 with a 6.48 ERA in 3 postseason games started.
The Braves will counter with lefty Mike Minor. The 25-year old had the best year of his
career with Atlanta, and he won a career-high 13 games with a career-best 3.21 ERA. He struck out 181 batters in 204 2/3 innings of work this season. Minor faced the Dodgers back on May 19th in Atlanta. He allowed 2 runs on 3 hits with 9 strikeouts and 2 walks over 6 innings of work. He wasn’t involved in the decision, but the Braves went on to win the game and swept that series. Minor pitched against the Dodgers a second time on June 9th at Dodger Stadium, and that time he came away with the victory. He only allowed 1 run on 6 hits with 6 strikeouts and 3 walks in 6 innings. That was a much different Dodger team then. Minor is 1-1 with a 2.32 ERA in 5 starts against the Dodgers in his career. Hanley Ramirez, A.J. Ellis, and Adrian Gonzalez have all hit a homerun against Minor in the past. Gonzo has 3 hits, 3 RBIs, and 3 walks against him in 9 plate appearances. This will be Minor’s postseason debut.
The Dodgers will once again need to strike early against the Braves in order to get ahead before their dominant bullpen comes in. Zack Greinke will need to keep Atlanta in the park, and he will hopefully will continue where Kershaw, Wilson, and Kenley left off yesterday during the win. Minor had a rough September, and the Dodgers will be looking to extend that into October on Friday. While Kershaw has gotten all of the attention, Greinke has really been one of the best pitchers in the game during the last couple of months of the regular season. Greinke allowed two runs or fewer to his opponents for his final 12 starts. He also had a 11-game unbeaten streak until he lost to the Rockies in his final start of the regular season on September 28th. That loss was thanks to the lack of run support in the 1-0 game.
Kershaw and Greinke are simply the best 1-2 combination in all of baseball.
Tune into TBS at 3:00 p.m. PT for game two, then come back to join us for our recap after the game. The Dodgers are making history, and 2013 is our year!