I've decided to preview each game because it's so huge, and because things can change quickly in the course of a series. Starters can change, injuries can happen, people can get benched. This playoff series is like baseball in a pressure cooker. All patience and waiting are gone, and all that matters now are quick results. If you can't perform, you sit. That's what Dan Uggla found out yesterday. I'm not shocked or displeased. I'm only shocked that BJ actually made the roster. If he didn't, we would have had the two most expensive benchwarmers other than the Yankees. Oh wait, they didn't make the playoffs. Hur-hur.
The matchup is simple. It's their best guy versus our best guy lately. I say that because while Kershaw has been good wire to wire, Medlen has slumped, rallied, slumped, and rallied again. In September, Medlen went 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA. Kershaw in September was 3-1 with a 2.53 ERA. Oddly, that was Kershaw's worst month in terms of ERA since June. If anything, you could say that Medlen has been pitching better baseball in the last month of the year. But does that matter? None of the teams Medlen faced were playoff bound, while one of the teams (the Reds) that Kershaw faced made the post-season (although only for one game in the Reds case). Even so, the Dodgers lost that game and Kershaw got a ND. When I look at Kershaw's record since August, I'm not that impressed. He's made his hay against a lot of garbage teams with probably his best win against the Tampa Bay Rays. However, when he faced the Cardinals? He got dinged for 6 hits, 2 runs, and a loss in just 6 innings. He's not invincible by any means, although he is a very good strikeout artist. But does that even matter with the current Braves lineup? I would say probably not as much as it used to. The Braves lead the NL in overall Ks with 1384 on the season, but since the changes to the roster made in September, the Braves were only 4th in NL Ks. And that's even including an awful section of hitting where they were without Jason Heyward in the lineup.
So what are the long and short term matchups with the starters versus the Dodgers? Historically, Medlen has been fantastic against the Dodgers lineup, holding them to a .217 average with a .598 OPS and only a single homer. Those are fantastic numbers for any starter, and they are buoyed by the fact Kris has started 2 games in 2013 against the Dodgers with 13.2 IP and no earned runs. That's right, he's shut out the Dodgers both times this regular season. In fact, in Kris' entire career, his only decisions against the Dodgers are wins. The Braves have lost some of those games due to poor hitting, but Kris has kept them in the game. That's what we need tonight.
On Kershaw's side, he hasn't faced a lot of the Braves hitters for more than a couple of ABs. Brian McCann, Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, Elliot Johnson, and Evan Gattis don't have any true record against Kershaw. However, he's absolutely dominated hitters like Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, and Chris Johnson. Considering that those guys are three of your top hitters, you'll need them to beat the odds in order to get on base, and set up guys like Brian, Gattis, and Freddie as your RISP hitters. Over the prior three years to this season, Kershaw faced the Braves 3 times and never got a decision with a 3.22 ERA. Also, Kershaw is a lefty, and Justin, Jason, Gattis, Freeman, and CJ have been feasting on lefties all year. You hope they can bust one off Kershaw to rattle him, and the crowd gets the chop going so loud that he can't think straight.
In the week leading up to this game, the Braves are hitting .263 while the Dodgers were only hitting .236, and the Braves have outscored the Dodgers 27 runs to 20. If there was a hotter hitting team going into this game it's the Braves, and on top of that they have the home field advantage that has meant so much during the season. Let's see how the CPA sees this game going.
CPA Prediction NLDS Game 1: Braves 3 - Dodgers 2
The CPA thinks you'll see a lot of good pitching tonight, but they will make some mistakes and the Braves can capitalize with their power. Also, the Braves bullpen is much better than the Dodgers, so if it becomes a battle of the pens, that's advantage to the home team.