COMMENTARY | The Atlanta Braves are facing a tremendously talented team in the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. With all of the Dodgers' high-priced talent, the Braves will need to have a lot of things go right.
Here are 5 reasons why the Braves will win:
Healthy Jason Heyward
Heyward is the best all-around player on the Braves' roster, and his quicker than expected recovery from a broken jaw has provided fans with some optimism. Heyward's terrific performance as the leadoff hitter in the weeks leading up to his injury showed that he has what it takes to ignite an offense that is packed with power threats. Heyward is also an elite defensive right fielder and an above-average base runner. For an offense that goes through sluggish stretches, the performance of Heyward will be essential for team success.
Balanced lineup to attack Greinke and Ryu
The greatest challenge in facing the Dodgers during a short series is that you face three of the National League's best pitchers in Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu. The most optimistic thing I can think to say about facing Kershaw is, "Hey, sometimes dudes have bad games."
But a balanced lefty/righty lineup means that they shouldn't be at a platoon disadvantage against Greinke and Ryu. Lefties Brian McCann, Heyward, and Freddie Freeman balance out nicely with righties Chris Johnson, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis. All three Dodgers pitchers will prove to be tough matchups, but there is reason to hope that the Braves' balanced lineup could crack the code.
The world's best bullpen
Craig Kimbrel and his supporting cast have been the best bullpen in baseball this season, and will need to keep locking down leads if they are going to beat the Dodgers. Without the need for a five-man rotation in the playoffs, moving starters Alex Wood and either Paul Maholm or Freddy Garcia to the bullpen will provide even more support. The starters should only need to bear down for five innings each game. This is a big-time advantage.
Andrelton SimmonsSimmons this season has been a revelation and something of a secret weapon. His jaw-dropping defensive ability in support of a talented young rotation has been a huge reason for the Braves leading the league in run prevention. But his surprising flashes of power this season might be an even more powerful secret weapon. If Simmons can provide power or at least tough outs at the bottom of the lineup, the Dodgers are going to have a tough time finding easy outs.
This might be the biggest thing the Braves have going for them. They put up a spectacular record at Turner Field this year, going 56-25, whereas the Dodger's great record came off of a more even home/road split. It might not be too much of an exaggeration to say that the Braves will need to win both of their first two home games to win this series. Winning Game 3 or Game 4 in Los Angeles will be a tough feat, so, hopefully, the regular-season magic at home can carry over.
It's definitely going to be a tough series, but why bother watching unless you can muster up some hope? Here's to hoping for a little more magic.
Patrick Richardson is a longtime follower of the Atlanta Braves who started playing t-ball right as Atlanta's record-setting run of division titles began. He is an amateur but enthusiastic sabermetrician.
- Sports & Recreation
- Atlanta Braves
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- Jason Heyward
- Zack Greinke