After experiencing a rude welcome to playoff baseball at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Atlanta Braves are now looking to pick up what would be a monumental victory when it comes to the story of this series.
Right now, the Dodgers are reaping the benefits of a pitching choice before the series even started. Dave Roberts chose to start Hyun-Jin Ryu in Game 1 of the series, pushing Clayton Kershaw back to Game 2. The move worked, and now the Braves will have to find a way to beat the Dodgers with Kershaw going and that is never an easy task.
With that being said, if there was ever a time to actually have a decent amount of optimism when it comes to facing off against Kershaw, it’s here and now in 2018. While the Dodgers’ most recognizable pitcher still finished the season with stats and peripherals that any pitcher at the major league level would gladly take, this was a year where the perennial Cy Young Award candidate appeared to look human for the majority of the year.
Still, the Braves can’t get too comfortable. For all I’ve just said about how Clayton Kershaw has been looking human, one of his best starts of the season came against the Atlanta Braves back in July. That’s when he pitched 7.2 innings while only giving up one run with eight strikeouts. Most of all, he had zero walks and the Dodgers cruised to victory.
Instead, I think we’d all prefer to see the September 2018 version of Kershaw show up. That version made six starts last month and finished with an ERA and FIP of 3.89 and 4.32 over September. Again, those are downright human numbers and if Atlanta’s offense can come alive against the lefty, then they could have a shot at stealing one in Dodger Stadium.
They could also really use another solid start from Anibal Sanchez. The veteran has been one of the most pleasant surprises in what’s been a season full of them for the Braves and now is the moment where the Braves will need him the most. He’s eaten innings all season and has been nearly a lock to go five or six innings in most of his starts this year. Another dose of reliability from Sanchez would be heaven-sent at this point.
In fact, Anibal Sanchez made it into the sixth inning against the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine back in June. He only gave up two runs on five hits and two walks and struck out five as the Braves eventually scraped by with a 5-3 victory. He wasn’t as fortunate in July, as the Dodgers dinged him for four runs over seven hits and four walks. Sanchez actually went longer into that game, as he made it into the seventh inning of that one. While giving up four runs again wouldn’t be ideal, I’d say that we’d all be pleased if he was able to make it into the seventh inning this time around.
After Thursday night’s rough game, the Braves now find themselves in a very tight spot. You never want to go back to your home with your backs against the wall facing elimination and that could be in Atlanta’s future if the offense continues to sputter and the Dodgers keep on popping dingers over the fence. I’d imagine that it’ll take one of the best performances of the season in order to make it back to SunTrust Park with the series tied.
We will see in a few hours as to whether or not the Braves can bounce back from their comprehensive defeat last night and turn this into a series. They have a steady pitcher going and they’ve got an offense that can come to life at any time and they’ll be facing a great pitcher who may be looking to prove something after he was “demoted” to Game 2 duty. I’ll leave you with Jesse Spano to describe how I’m feeling about this one.
Game Date/Time: Friday, October 5, 9:37 p.m. ET
Location: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California
TV: Fox Sports 1, FOX Deportes
Streaming: MLB.tv, fuboTV streaming (Sign up here!)
Radio: ESPN Radio, 680 AM / 93.7 FM, WYAY 106.7, Braves Radio Network, La Mejor 1600 / 1460 / 1130 AM