2013 MLB Playoffs: Los Angeles Shouldn’t Look Past Three-Man Rotation

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The Los Angeles Dodgers announced that they’re going with the four-man rotation in the National League Division Series, against the Atlanta Braves. “Pitching wins in the postseason,” is a phrase that you’ll frequently hear every October, which has been true for the most part.

The four-man rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Ricky Nolasco is arguably the best of the bunch headed into the 2013 postseason. Any rotation featuring Kershaw and Greinke would be tough to beat in any series. The Dodgers don’t plan on using a three-man rotation, even if they were to go down 2-1 in this best of five series.

Nolasco ended the regular season on a horrendous note, after going 5-0 with a 1.64 ERA in August. In the month of September, he finished with a 2-2 record and 6.66 ERA. It’s unclear which Nolasco will show up in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t afford to find that out the hard way.

Kershaw has never pitched on three days’ rest in his career, but that’s true for all pitchers until they end up doing it.

The Dodgers 25-year-old southpaw is invaluable and is arguably the best pitcher on the planet. Kershaw just captured his third consecutive ERA title (1.83), punched out 200-plus batters for the fourth consecutive season, and is the favorite to win his second CY Young Award in three years. You can’t convince anyone that any other pitcher belongs on the mound in an elimination game. (Kanye West is even capable of making the right decision on this one).

The three-man rotation should also be considered in Game 4 even if the Dodgers hold a 2-1 series lead over Atlanta. The Braves finished the 2013 regular season with the best home record in all of baseball; 56-25. So, Los Angeles should want to avoid going back to Atlanta for a decisive Game 5 of the series.

Throwing Kershaw on three days’ rest makes sense here, too. A win would avoid the long trip from Los Angeles to Atlanta to play that elimination game and would save Greinke for Game 1 of the next series. A loss would still have Greinke pitching in that elimination game in Atlanta, but would push both aces back in the championship series.

The postseason isn’t guaranteed every year, just ask the Washington Nationals. The Dodgers have two of the top pitchers in baseball and shouldn’t hesitate to use them. Pitching on three days’ rest was never a topic of discussion decades ago, it was just expected. Nowadays, it’s a rare feat. However, it’s still done when winning is the priority; Curt Schilling did it twice during the Arizona Diamondbacks 2001 World Series; Josh Beckett did it during the 2003 Florida Marlins World Series; and CC Sabathia hasn’t been afraid to take the ball when needed over the last couple of years.

If the Dodgers stick with the four-man rotation in this series, so be it, but Kershaw and Greinke are there for a reason.

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Dodgers vs Braves Pre-Game: Dodgers Expecting a Big Show

The Dodgers dropped a tough one to the Braves last night to go to 5-3 during this 10-game road trip. They scored three runs to back a dominate performance from Chris Capuano, only for the bullpen to lose the lead in the eighth inning and lose 4-3 in extras. The loss also puts the Dodgers back into second place, half a game behind the Giants for first place in the National League West.

Tonight will be a solid match-up of two right-handers in what will be the traditional MLB Civil Rights Game on the MLB Network.

The Braves will have Ben Sheets on the mound tonight, who they picked up before the All-Star break to help out their starting rotation. Before this year, Sheets last appeared in a Major League game in 2010 with the Oakland A’s. He sat out all of last season because of numerous arm injuries that also kept him out for the entire 2009 season.

So far he has been brilliant for the Braves in just six starts, posting a 4-2 record with a 2.13 ERA. However, Sheets did get knocked around in his last time out against the Mets on August 12th. He lost the game going 6.0 innings, allowing eight hits, four runs, and striking out five. Tonight Sheets will face a Dodgers team that he hasn’t had much success against, with a career record of 3-6 and a 3.78 ERA.

The Dodgers offense probably feels the same way, as only Juan Uribe and James Loney have had some success against Sheets. Here’s a look:

H/AB

BA

RBI

Juan Uribe

2-for-4

.500

2

James Loney

1-for-3

.333

The “Big Show” Aaron Harang will be throwing in this one for the Dodgers. Harang has been solid for the Dodgers this season as a middle of the rotation guy. He has an overall record of 8-7 with a 3.76 ERA on the season.

In his last outing against the Pirates on August 13 he came out with the win. Harang went 6.0 innings in that game, allowing five hits, two runs, with four strike outs. Tonight he will be facing a similar problem to Sheets, as Harang has a career record of 1-3 against the Braves with a 4.53 ERA. It won’t get any easier either because the Braves’ offense have had much success against this big right-hander.

The Braves have five different players who have hit home runs against Harang in their career.

H/AB

BA

HR

RBI

Michael Bourn

8-for-24

.333

1

3

Chipper Jones

5-for-11

.455

1

4

Brian McCann

6-for-11

.545

1

4

David Ross

2-for-3

.667

2

4

Dan Uggla

7-for-21

.333

1

4

Los Angeles Dodgers (65-55) at Atlanta Braves (70-49)
Aaron Harang (8-7, 3.76) vs. Ben Sheets (4-2, 2.13)
Turner Field, Atlanta, Georgia
4:10 p.m. PST, August 18, 2012
TV: Prime Ticket, MLB Network
Radio: 570 AM (English), 1020 AM (Spanish)
Game-Time Weather: 80 degrees, Sunny

Braves’ Projected Starters
P: Ben Sheets
C: Brian McCann
1B: Freddie Freeman
2B: Dan Uggla
SS: Paul Janish
3B: Chipper Jones
LF: Martin Prado
CF: Michael Bourn
RF: Jason Heyward

Key Bench Players: OF Reed Johnson, UT Eric Hinske

For more on the Braves, check out our pre-series report.

Key to a Dodger Victory:
Crooked Number: The Dodgers offense has been arguably as hot as they’ve been all year during this road trip. They have scored three runs or more in every game resulting in that 5-3 record on the trip. In their last series against the Pirates, they scored 5, 11, 9, and 6 runs in those four games, losing just once. It will be tough to beat the Dodgers if they continue to put up crooked numbers, especially if their pitchers have outings like Capuano’s last night.

Dodgers Beat Braves, Behind Group Effort

The Dodgers returned home last night after their 6 game road trip in quite a fashion, beating the Atlanta Braves 7-2. It was the way they needed to respond after losing 12-0 to the Houston Astros on Sunday. This was one of those games that you didn’t think they could lose; everything was going right for the Dodgers. It actually didn’t seem that way from the beginning, when Dodgers starter Chris Capuano was in a two out bases loaded jam in the first-inning, eventually striking out Jason Heyward to escape the trouble.

The offense got hot early against Braves starter Jair Jurrjens, and never looked back. Dee Gordon started the game with a leadoff single, and didn’t waste any time getting into scoring position, stealing his 9th base of the year. He eventually scored on a RBI single from Andre Ethier, which tied Matt Kemp with 22 RBIs on the season. The Braves got the run right back in the second-inning, with a solo home run from former Dodger catcher David Ross. I know it seems like 100 years ago, but he did wear Dodger blue from 2002-2004. Anyways, believe it or not the Dodgers got 3 consecutive singles in the bottom half of the second-inning from James Loney, Juan Uribe, and AJ Ellis! The Uribe and Ellis singles both went for an RBI giving the Dodgers a 3-1 lead after two. Capuano continued to escape any trouble he got himself into and pitched his best game of the year so far. He finished with 7.0 innings-pitched, allowing 6 hits, 1 run, and striking out 5.

Once again in the fourth-inning the Dodgers got 3 hits in a row from Loney, Uribe, and then Ellis giving the Dodgers a 4-1 lead on another RBI single. This was almost more exciting to see than a Matt Kemp home run, seriously I’m joking. The Dodgers got another run in the fourth-inning to go up 5-1 on the Braves, when Gordon hit a sacrifice fly that scored Uribe. Atlanta got their second run in the eight-inning on another solo home run, this time it was Dan Uggla who hit one off of Josh Lindblom. The Dodgers added two more runs in the bottom half of the eight-inning to go up 7-2, when Uribe got a 2 RBI single, making it his first four hit game since 2007. Scott Elbert pitched a perfect ninth-inning to give the Dodgers their 13th win of the season, and a perfect 7-0 record at Dodger Stadium.

This wasn’t just another win for the Dodgers, it was the biggest win they’ve had so far this season. They had guys besides Kemp and Ethier get the job done, which could boost the confidence of this team. It could also take some of the pressure off of Kemp and Ethier, who maybe feels like if they don’t produce, it will be hard to win games. The game pitched by Capuano could mean that their number 3 starter can go deep into games, if necessary. I’m not saying that this one game can have these effects, but this win could mean more than you think. If the Dodgers can keep getting anything close to the group effort that they put on display tonight, the wins will pile up.

Dodgers Look to Rebound

The Dodgers will return home tonight after their first road trip of the year to host the Atlanta Braves for a 3 game series. They ended their trip with a record of 3-3 after taking 2 of 3 from the Houston Astros and losing 2 of 3 in a tough series against the Milwaukee Brewers. The Dodgers were on the verge of sweeping the Astros yesterday, but instead suffered their worst loss of this early season, 12-0. They looked as if they had already packed their bags to return home. The Chad Billingsley who had pitched brilliant in his first 3 starts was nowhere to be found during this game; he finished with 3.1 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, and 2 SO. The Dodgers bats were also “MIA” as they were shut down by the Astros lefty Wandy Rodriguez who only allowed 3 hits in 7 innings pitched.

The Dodgers will have their hands full tonight against the Braves, as they look to rebound from that embarrassing loss. The Braves are 10-6 on the year so far and are looking to stay hot after taking 3 of 4 from the Arizona Diamondbacks over the weekend. Jair Jurrjens will take the mound tonight for Atlanta, who is 0-1 with an 8.10 ERA in 3 starts this season. Don’t let these numbers fool you, last year before the all-star break he was an early favorite to win the NL CY Young award, until an injury ended his season early. He still finished last year with a 13-6 record and 2.96 ERA. This guy is capable of being a top of the line starter when he has his stuff working, so we’ll see which Jair Jurrjens shows up at Dodger Stadium tonight. The Dodgers will send Chris Capuano to the mound tonight, who has pitched exceptionally well early on this season with a 1-0 record and 4.50 ERA.

The lefty Capuano will be facing a tough lineup from top to bottom, featuring guys like Dan Uggla, Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, and Chipper Jones. This lineup could be labeled as one of the toughest in the National League, with power coming from everywhere in the lineup. The Dodgers bullpen will be HUGE for them in this series, despite the early struggles that have been put on display. Scott Elbert, who is the only left hander in the Dodgers bullpen, is someone to keep an eye on during this series. He has only appeared in 5 games this year, posting a 5.40 ERA in the 3.1 innings he has pitched in. The Braves have two left-handed hitters in Freeman and Heyward who can do some damage with runners on base late in the game, which is why Elbert will be a key to the Dodgers success in this series. If he is called upon to face these guys in a situation late in the game, he MUST come through; being the only lefty Don Mattingly has in the bullpen to face left-handed hitters. So the Dodgers will look to rebound tonight, but will also be looking to add-on to their perfect 6-0 record at home.