Regular Season Finish:
1st Place NL West
National League Division Series Opponent:
The Dodgers will try to begin their postseason run Thursday night against the Atlanta Braves. Game 1 in Atlanta will feature a pitching matchup of Clayton Kershaw against Kris Medlen. Kershaw is the frontrunner for this year’s NL Cy Young with his 16-9 record with a Major League leading 1.83 ERA. Braves starter Kris Medlen looked more like the starter he was last year during this year’s stretch run, winning eight of his last 11 starts. The Braves went 5-2 against the Dodgers in the regular season.
One of the main keys for the Dodgers to have success this postseason will be to continue to have their starting pitchers pitch effectively. As talked about, Kershaw has been stellar all year for the Dodgers, earning him a third straight NL ERA championship.
Zack Greinke has proved to be the excellent free agent pickup he was expected to be, posting a 15-4 record with a 2.63 ERA. South Korean lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu was another addition that paid dividends with his 14 wins and 3.00 ERA. The Dodgers front-3 combined for 45 wins this season and are a big reason why they were able to win the NL West.
Another key will be to get rookie sensation Yasiel Puig going very early. Puig has proven he can handle the big stage, so the transition to postseason play should be somewhat easy for him. However the Dodgers will need him to bring his bat to have any chance of knocking out the Braves. After a raging hot start to the season, Puig saw he average fall from .351 to .319 during the season’s final month. The NL Rookie of the Year candidate is one of the players on this team that will need to step up. Puig might be the main reason why the Dodgers got on the roll they did in soaring to 1st place in the West. His energy is infectious on this team, and if his production can pick up, that will be huge for the Los Angeles team as a whole.
The last key for the Dodgers is to make sure 3B Hanley Ramirez continues to deliver like he has all season. Hanley finally returned back to the form he was with the Marlins, and was one of the best hitters in the National League this season with the Dodgers. He will take a career high .345 batting average into the playoffs and if the Dodgers table-setters can get on base for him, he could do some serious damage.
Ramirez proved once again this year that when he is hot, he is one of the hardest guys to get out in the Major Leagues. That’s why guys like Carl Crawford, Mark Ellis, and Yasiel Puig need to get on base for him to give him a chance to drive in some runs and catch fire like he has in the past this year.
One thing’s for sure, the Dodgers have no chance of winning if their 1-2 punch of Kershaw and Greinke can’t deliver. They have anchored the pitching staff all year, so it would be a rare site to see. However the Braves have a potent offense that could do some damage against the two. If the Dodgers are to be pushed out of the playoffs, it would be because of both Kershaw and Greinke not living up to standards.
The Dodgers are stacked on both offense and pitching. Kershaw, Greinke, and Ryu have all pitched excellent this year, and Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Hanley Ramirez, and Yasiel Puig are potent bats in the lineup that can catch fire at any point.
Even bats off the bench like Juan Uribe or Michael Young (depending on who gets the nod at third base) could make a difference with their veteran experience. The Dodgers do have some injury problems, with OF Andre Ethier (ankle), as well as OF Matt Kemp. Ethier hopes to play Game 3, but is still a question mark at this point.
The Dodgers look like the favorites in the National League with a surplus of talented players on the roster highlighted by starting pitching that has carried this team all year. Overall, Puig just seems like an x-factor for LA. If he can get it going like he did to start his season, expect this team to once again feed off his energy and make another run. I like those chances, and that’s why they are my pick to win it all.