The Braves were wire-to-wire winners of the National League East. The Dodgers stumbled out of the gate but used an exciting rookie to rise to the top of the NL West. They meet in their end of the NLDS on Thursday at 8 p.m. Here’s what you need to know to prepare for the series:
Atlanta won the season series against the Dodgers, 5-2. They scored 27 runs and allowed 17. But those games came in May and early June, before the team really took off. Thus, it’ll be a far different Dodgers team that Atlanta encounters on Thursday.
Hanley Ramirez, Dodgers SS – Though he doesn’t get as much press as Yasiel Puig, Ramirez is one of the biggest reasons for the Dodgers’ turnaround. He batted .370 with a .462 on-base percentage and five home runs in September.
Juan Uribe, Dodgers 3B – Uribe has already won two World Series (with the White Sox and Giants), so is it any surprise he’s a big contributor for the Dodgers this season? Perhaps, considering he was nearly useless in 2011-12 with LA, posting a .552 OPS with six total home runs. In September alone, Uribe has a .944 OPS and five home runs this season.
Yasiel Puig, Dodgers RF – You may have heard of him. Puig has actually had his worst month in September, hitting .214 with a .333 OBP. But he’s led the Dodgers with six home runs.
Freddie Freeman, Braves 1B – Freeman has been the Braves’ best hitter down the stretch. He hit .380 with a .449 OBP and six home runs in September.
Andrelton Simmons, Braves SS – He’s just as likely to be hot for his defense as his offense. And while he hit just .253 in September, he clubbed five home runs.
Evan Gattis, Braves C/LF – Neary half of all Gattis’ hits have gone for extra bases. In September he did even better: Out of 25 hits, six were home runs and seven were doubles.
Skip Schumaker, Dodgers INF/OF – With Andre Ethier hurting, Schumaker could see some significant time. He hit just .204 with a .246 OBP in September.
Brian McCann, Braves C – Not a good way to go into your free agent offseason. McCann hit just .170 with a .290 OBP in September. Lucky for him he has October to rectify things.
GAME 1 PITCHING COMPARISON
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers LHP: Need a scouting report? Try “the modern-day Sandy Koufax.” And that’s not a stretch. Kershaw led MLB with a 1.83 ERA and paced the NL with 232 strikeouts. It’s the third straight season he’s led baseball in ERA and the second season in his last three that he’s led the NL in strikeouts.
Kris Medlen, Braves RHP: Medlen made a name for himself last season, going 10-1 with a 1.57 ERA and starting (and losing) Atlanta’s one-game Wild Card contest against the Cardinals. This season he’s 15-12 with a 3.11 ERA, but has been excellent during the second half. In his final 10 games (9 starts) of the regular season, Medlen went 7-2 with a 1.64 ERA, striking out 55 and walking 12.
NEW YORK CONNECTION
Don Mattingly, the former Yankees star and coach, was on the cusp of losing his job as Dodgers manager before the team finally picked up its play during the summer.
Freddy Garcia is the likely Game 4 starter for Atlanta, should it need one. After flopping with Baltimore, he hooked on with the Braves and went 1-2 with a 1.65 ERA in six games (three starts).
Braves reliever Luis Ayala pitched for both the Mets (2008) and Yankees (2011).
THE X FACTOR
Is there a bigger mystery in the sport than Puig? He’s extremely likely to do something exciting – but he also has the possibility of a big gaffe. Either way, he’s must see TV this October, for however long his October lasts.