The Atlanta Braves come off a series win (no, seriously!) against the Washington Nationals and now get a chance to face the Los Angeles Dodgers once again. As you may recall, the Braves were swept by the Dodgers last week in the middle of their disastrous 8 game losing streak. The Braves have a chance to redeem themselves as they begin a four game series tonight.
The Braves are catching a major break in this series as they will dodge both Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke in a four game series. Kevin Correia is starting game one of the series in an effort to give the Dodgers starting rotation an extra day of rest. As a result, the Braves will not have to face the two best starters for LA including the best pitcher in all of baseball. Thank goodness for small miracles.
In game one the Braves get to face a AAAA starter in Correia and in game two they face the struggling Dan Haren. Haren has a 4.46 FIP this season and has seen his strikeout rate decline. Haren is striking fewer batters out and giving up his usual high rate of home runs. He is the exact type of pitcher the Braves lineup should have a good chance to do some damage against. Haren has been barely above replacement level in 2014 and the Braves should do well against him.
In game three the Braves finally face a pretty tough customer in Hyun-Jin Ryu. Ryu has had a tremendous season overshadowed only by the fact that he pitches in such an outstanding rotation. Ryu has been in especially good form of late throwing seven shutout innings his last time out and has the Dodgers lowest FIP over the last thirty days at 2.04. Ryu does a good job of limiting home runs and he doesn't walk many batters. He doesn't have the most overpowering stuff in the Dodgers rotation but he is a challenge for any team. The Braves will need a big performance from Ervin Santana to match him.
The Braves will finish off the series with a noon game on Thursday against Roberto Hernandez. Hernandez has been nothing special in 2014 though he was effective in his first start for LA after the Dodgers picked him up at the deadline. Hernandez has gotten decent results this season despite a poor walk rate an inability to miss bats. He has done this by limiting homers and with some good babip luck (.253 this year). Hernandez's 4.46 FIP tells the story and the Braves should have the advantage with their unicorn Aaron Harang on the mound.
The Dodgers lineup is a scary group led by MVP candidate Yasiel Puig. Puig has a 163 wRC+ this season, has learned how to walk and is crushing the ball. He has been particularly hard on the Braves in his short career and he terrifies me. Hanley Ramirez and Dee Gordon are also having big seasons at the plate though Ramirez hasn't been quite the world beater he was last year. Matt Kemp may be a defensive black hole but he is rejuvenated at the plate. Kemp has a 133 wRC+ on the season and a whopping 181 wRC+ over the past 30 days. None of this is even mentioning the always dangerous Adrien Gonzalez or the way Justin Turner has come on strong for LA in the past month. This lineup is no joke and has the potential to put games out of reach for the Braves meager attack if they come out strong.
The Dodgers are the best team in the National League for a reason. The lineup is stacked as is the rotation though the Braves will avoid the two best starters LA has. This should give Atlanta a chance in the series. The Braves squandered their margin for error on their disastrous west coast road trip. The series win over Washington kept Atlanta in the playoff hunt but they can't drop a home series at this point. This Dodgers are a huge challenge and the Braves will have to meet it.