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Dodgers vs Braves: Toughest Series to Pick a Winner

Multiple questions arise when discussing the upcoming National League Division Series between the NL West Champion Los Angeles Dodgers and the NL East Champion Atlanta Braves.

Of the four division series, this one will be the hardest to put a finger on. The Dodgers were ugly early, fabulous for a large part of the season and limped home at 9-15.

Having said that, the same holds true for the Braves, winners of 96 games, but they have no real No. 1 starter and opposing pitchers can shut them down quite easily. Nevertheless, like the Dodgers, the Braves can play like the best or mediocre and that makes it hard to tell which of the two teams will have its “A” team show up.

Without a second thought, the Dodgers starting rotation is the best in baseball. Clayton Kershaw, who will be able to appear twice in the series if it goes the full five games, is the best pitcher in both leagues.

Kershaw had a 1.83 ERA this season, which is the lowest for a qualifier (enough innings pitched) since 2000 when Pedro Martinez had a 1.74 ERA for the Boston Red Sox. Kershaw won the ERA title for the third consecutive year to join just Greg Maddux and Sandy Koufax as the only three pitchers to accomplish that feat.

Following Kershaw will be Zack Greinke 7-1 over his past 12 starts to end the season. The two are the best 1-2 punch on the mound that MLB has. The team’s quality starters do not fall off much with their third starter Hyun-Jin Ryu and Ricky Nolasco their fourth.

Kris Medlen might be starting the first game for Atlanta but cannot be considered the team’s ace, since the team does not have one. However, he is 5-0 over his past six outings, with just four earned runs over 43 innings and no home runs.

After Medlen its Paul Maholm Julio Teheran and Mike Minor and each has at least 10 wins.

Los Angeles will be without Matt Kemp for the remainder of the postseason. Don Mattingly reminds everyone that the team was 42-8 when Kemp was on the disabled list so do not expect the team to fold without him. Andre Ethier has been out since September 25, but is expected back for the series.

In the Braves outfield, Jason Heyward has to move to center, Evan Gattis will take left and B.J. Upton needs to be put on the bench. Upton has a batting average of .184 and is a liability to the team. Against lefties, like Kershaw, Upton was .157 on the season.

If the game is decided by the bullpen, chances are the Braves will win. They have the best in the majors with an ERA for the bullpen of just 2.46. Craig Kimbrel is their closer with 50 saves, has an ERA of 1.21 and is as close to being unhittable as a reliever can be. David Carpenter and Luis Avilan along with the others in the pen are also very good.

Nevertheless, Los Angeles has proved it can be one of the league’s best when they score runs as their pitching staff can shut down the best of hitters. I like the Dodgers in five.

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