The Dodgers meet the Braves in the NLDS matchup of the 2 and 3 seeds in the NL. The Braves have home-field advantage, and will host games 1, 2, and if necessary, Game 5. Game 1 will be Thursday at 8:37 and Game 2 will be Friday at 6:07, with both games on TBS (All times ET). The schedule for the remaining games has not been announced.
Lineup: Dodgers. This may be the best top-to-bottom lineup in the NL, as it has few weaknesses, led by Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier. There are questions how Yasiel Puig will perform in postseason pressure. The Braves main weakness comes from Dan Uggla (who actually isn’t on the series roster) and BJ Upton, only the fourth duo in history to both hit under .200 with over 400 AB in a single season (the Braves are the first team on this list to make the playoffs).
Bench: Braves. The Braves have several role players on their bench whose names may not match the fame of a few on the Dodgers bench but are more effective, like Reed Johnson, Jordan Schafer, and Gerald Laird. The Dodgers bench is impressive, with Michael Young, Skip Schumaker, and Nick Punto.
Rotation: Dodgers. While the Braves have a strong rotation with Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, and possibly Freddy Garcia, the Dodgers will throw potential NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw in Game 1, followed by Zach Grienke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and either Ricky Nolasco or Edinson Volquez.
Bullpen: Braves. The Dodgers bullpen is impressive, with veterans JP Howell, Brandon League, Peter Moylan, Carlos Marmol, and Brian Wilson. However, some of these big names have struggled, while the Braves, despite multiple injuries of key bullpen pitchers, have posted the best bullpen ERA in the NL, due to the emergence of David Carpenter and Luis Avilan and the off-season acquisition of Jordan Walden.
Closer: Braves. In any game the Braves lead after 8 innings, Kimbrel will pitch the 9th (excluding a blowout win). All he’s done this year is save 50 games with a 1.21 ERA and 98 strikeouts in 67 innings. Kenley Jansen has had a good year, but he just can’t compete with that.
Manager: Dodgers (tough call). These are two excellent managers. In my postseason awards post, I voted for NL Manager of the Year like this: Clint Hurdle (Pirates), Don Mattingly (Dodgers), Fredi Gonzalez (Braves). I’ll stick with that and go with the man who took a 30-42 team on a 62-38 run the rest of the way to win the West.
Home-field/crowd: Braves. The Braves have home-field advantage in this series, and they are 56-25 at Turner Field. That may come into play in a potential game 5.
This may be the most even of the four Division Series matchups. In my 7 criteria, the Braves have the advantage in 4, and the Dodgers in 3. I think this will be a very even series, and will go the distance, with the Braves winning Game 5 at home, where they are so good, to win the series and advance to the NLCS.