A look at the best-of-five National League Division Series between the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers:
Schedule: (All times EDT) Game 1, Thursday, at Los Angeles, 8:37 p.m. (MLB); Game 2, Friday, at Los Angeles, 9:37 p.m. (FS1); Game 3, Sunday, at Atlanta, 8:07 p.m. (FS1); x-Game 4, Monday, Oct. 8, at Atlanta, TBA; x-Game 5, Wednesday, Oct. 10, at Los Angeles, TBA.
Season Series: Dodgers won 5-2.
Braves: LF Ronald Acuna Jr. (.293, 26 HRs, 64 RBIs, 16 SBs), CF Ender Inciarte (.265, 10, 61, 28 SBs), 1B Freddie Freeman (.309, 23, 98, 10 SBs), RF Nick Markakis (.297, 14, 93), 3B Johan Camargo (.272, 19, 76), C Tyler Flowers (.227, 8, 30), 2B Ozzie Albies (.261, 24, 72, 14 SBs), SS Dansby Swanson (.238, 14, 59, injured left hand) or Charlie Culberson (.270, 12, 45).
Dodgers: LF Joc Pederson (.248, 25, 56) or Matt Kemp (.290, 21, 85, 115 Ks in 146 games), 3B Justin Turner (.312, 14, 52), 1B Max Muncy (.263, 35, 79, .958 OPS), SS Manny Machado (.315, 24, 65, .963 OPS with Orioles; .273, 13, 42, .825 OPS with Dodgers), C Yasmani Grandal (.241, 24, 68), CF-1B Cody Bellinger (.260, 25, 76, 151 Ks in 162 games), RF Yasiel Puig (.267, 23, 63), 2B Enrique Hernandez (.256, 21, 52) or Brian Dozier (.227, 16, 52 with Twins; .182, 5, 20 with Dodgers).
Braves: RH Mike Foltynewicz (13-10, 2.85 ERA, 202 Ks), RH Anibal Sanchez (7-6, 2.83), RH Kevin Gausman (10-11, 3.92 with Braves and Orioles; 5-3, 2.87 in 10 starts for Atlanta), RH Julio Teheran (9-3, 3.94, .196 opponents’ batting average) or LH Sean Newcomb (12-9, 3.90).
Dodgers: LH Hyun-Jin Ryu (7-3, 1.97), LH Clayton Kershaw (9-5, 2.73, team-high 155 Ks), RH Walker Buehler (8-5, 2.62, 151 Ks in 137 1/3 IP), LH Rich Hill (11-5, 3.66, 150 Ks) or RH Ross Stripling (8-6, 3.02).
Braves: RH Arodys Vizcaino (2-2, 2.11, 16/18 saves), LH A.J. Minter (4-3, 3.23, 15/17 saves), LH Jesse Biddle (6-1, 3.11, 60 games), RH Shane Carle (4-1, 2.86, 53 games), RH Dan Winkler (4-0, 3.43, 2 saves, 69 games), LH Jonny Venters (4-1, 3.54, 2 saves), RH Chad Sobotka (1-0, 1.88, 21 Ks in 14 1/3 IP; 0.00 ERA in 8 September games), LH Sam Freeman (3-5, 4.29 in 63 games), RH Luke Jackson (1-2, 4.43 in 35 games).
Dodgers: RH Kenley Jansen (1-5, 3.01, 38/42 saves), RH Kenta Maeda (8-10, 3.81, 2 saves in 39 games, 20 starts), RH Pedro Baez (4-3, 2.88), LH Scott Alexander (2-1, 3.68), RH Josh Fields (2-2, 2.20), LH Caleb Ferguson (7-2, 3.49, 2 saves), RH Dylan Floro (3-1, 1.63), RH JT Chargois (2-4, 3.34), RH Ryan Madson (2-5, 5.28, 4 saves with Nationals; 0-0, 6.48 with Dodgers), LH Tony Cingrani (1-2, 4.76), LH Alex Wood (9-7, 3.68 in 33 games, 27 starts).
Third postseason meeting between the teams. Los Angeles beat Atlanta in four games in 2013 NLDS, which was Braves’ last playoff appearance. Braves swept Dodgers in 1996 NLDS.
Dodgers outscored Braves 35-18 this season. Braves have lost eight consecutive playoff series since sweeping Astros in 2001 NL Division Series.
Foltynewicz threw five solid innings, allowing one run and one hit with nine strikeouts and no walks, for 10-2 win over Phillies in final regular-season start. He gained momentum for the playoffs by giving up a combined three hits and three runs in his last two starts. Foltynewicz had a 5.56 ERA, allowing seven earned runs in 11 1/3 innings, against Dodgers in two regular-season starts. This is first postseason as a manager for Brian Snitker, who has been in Braves organization since 1977.
Snitker, a top candidate for NL Manager of the Year, replaced Fredi Gonzalez early in 2016 season. Freeman led NL with 191 hits, tied for lead with 44 doubles, finished third with .309 batting average and also finished in top 10 in RBIs (98) and runs (94).
In 67 games as leadoff hitter, Acuna hit .328 with 19 homers, 45 RBIs and 14 stolen bases to become a Rookie of the Year favorite. Acuna’s move to the top of the batting order sparked team’s surge to division title. Inciarte hit .223 in 54 games as leadoff hitter; Albies batted .234 in 40 games atop lineup. Newcomb came within one out of a no-hitter against Dodgers on July 29, allowing one hit in 8 2/3 innings of 4-1 win.
Dodgers went 45-37 at home and head into playoffs having won 14 of 18 overall. Dodgers took two of three vs. Braves in LA from June 8-10 and three of four in Atlanta from July 26-29. Buehler has emerged as Dodgers’ second-best pitcher behind Kershaw after starting season at Triple-A Oklahoma City. Buehler limited hitters to .193 batting average, while striking out 151 against 37 walks in 24 regular-season games, including 23 starts. Buehler had the second-lowest WHIP (0.92) and opponents’ on-base percentage (.249) among rookie pitchers with 20 or more regular-season starts since 1913.
Dodgers dig the long ball. Their 235 homers were a franchise record and led the NL.
Braves: NL East champion Atlanta (90-72) was expected to improve this season, but was not projected to be far along enough in its rebuild to challenge for a postseason spot. Snitker, however, guided team to a huge jump from 72 wins in 2017, when Braves finished 25 games behind first-place Washington, and their first division title since 2013.
The “Baby Braves” grabbed most of the attention, with Acuna, 20, and Albies, 21, making major contributions with their power and speed. Equally important was Markakis adding depth to middle of the lineup, Freeman having a full healthy season and Camargo providing stability at third base. Since the All-Star break, Camargo had 10 homers and 37 RBIs while Freeman had seven homers and 37 RBIs.
Rotation lacks a true No. 1 starter, though Snitker said Foltynewicz has grown into that role this season. Sanchez has been perhaps the biggest surprise, adding depth to the rotation with his consistency. Newcomb at times looked like an emerging foundation for the staff but he faded with a 4.57 ERA after the All-Star break, including a 6.75 mark in five August starts.
Dodgers: NL West champion Los Angeles (92-71) is looking to return to the World Series after losing Game 7 at home against Houston last year. Dodgers haven’t won it all since 1988. Los Angeles will try to win a Division Series for third straight year. Dodgers swept Arizona in three games last season and edged Washington 3-2 in 2016.
Dodgers went from second-most wins in team history (104) last season to 92 this year, and from dominating the NL West to needing Game 163 tiebreaker victory over Colorado at home to clinch their record sixth consecutive division title. Deep and talented Dodgers platoon at several positions and often shuffle their lineup based on opposing pitcher.
With the Braves likely starting at least three right-handers, maybe four, established right-handed hitters such as Chris Taylor (.254, 17, 63, team-high 178 Ks in 155 games) and David Freese (.282, 9, 42 with Pirates; .385, 2, 9 with Dodgers) could often be on Los Angeles bench during series.
— Short Order. Swanson’s status might not be known until Wednesday due to soreness in the upper part of his left hand. He partially tore a ligament on a swing during the final week of the regular season and left the game. Culberson, who has hit .282 with eight homers in the second half, would be the replacement at shortstop. That would force the Braves to have another player, possibly Ryan Flaherty, on their bench as a backup infielder.
— Kenley the Closer. Jansen allowed 18 homers this season, more than twice as many as his previous career high. He gave up back-to-back home runs in the division tiebreaker against the Rockies, although he was pitching with a comfortable lead. Jansen had heart issues during the season and said he’s going to need surgery. But the Dodgers need him to be his old dominant self in the playoffs.
— On The Bench. Snitker said he feels good about Lucas Duda’s availability to pinch-hit after Duda was limited late in the season by a sore back. Duda offers power from the left side.
— Super Max. Muncy got called up in mid-April, homered in his second game and has been the Dodgers’ big basher ever since. It’s quite a turnaround for a player who was released by Oakland and spent 2017 in the minors.