The Dodgers are 92-70 in the 2013 season, first in the NL Western Division. The Braves have done a bit better, going 96-66, good for sixth in the Eastern Division. When both teams start the division series at Atlanta on Thursday, the match-up is expected to be a tussle of the best of the best.
The Dodgers may try to sign Andre Ethier to a long-term deal during the regular season.
One key matchup will be the Yasiel Puig vs. Justin Upton. Both outfielders are hard-hitting sluggers who can hit the ball right out of the park. Puig, the defector from Cuba who made an instant impact in his Major League debut season, is expected to continue his prodigious play, both on the plate and in the outfield. Puig has hit .319 with 19 home runs and 42 RBI. Upton, the six-year veteran who joined the Braves only this season, has averaged .263 with 27 home runs and 70 RBI, and is on pace to equal his 2012 NL RBI record of 107.
The pitching and defense matchups should be interesting as well. The Braves have a collective ERA of 3.51, good for fifth in the NL, and were able to strike out 813 batters. Mike Minor leads the charge, averaging a 3.21 ERA. The Dodgers did one better, allowing an ERA of only 3.13, the lowest in the NL, while striking out 841 opposing batters. The starting pitcher core rotates around Clayton Kershew with a 1.83 ERA, one of the best records in the MLB.
Fielding is not a problem for both teams, as both have averaged in the high .900s. The Braves have a fielding percentage of .986 while allowing only a .712 stolen base success rate. The Dodgers have a fielding rate of .982 and have stolen base success rate of .612.
The X-factor, though, will be the manager. The Dodgers have posted a .563 winning percentage during Don Mattingly's three-year tenure, but this will be only his first playoff stint. In contrast, Fredi Gonzales led the Braves to their first playoff appearance under his tutelage in 2012, losing to the Cardinals in the wild card. In his three seasons managing the Braves, Gonzales has posted a .574 win percentage.
Experts predict the Braves to win the series in five games, but others see it going the other way. Whatever the result may be, the NLDS is sure to be an explosive matchup.
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