The Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers are all set to face off in the NLDS. The best of five series begins tonight at 8:37 ET.
Both teams won their respective divisions this season. Los Angeles needed a game 163 with the Rockies to do so, while the Braves won the East handily, finishing ahead of the Phillies by eight games. Now they will go head to head for a chance to move on to the Championship Series. The Dodgers took the regular season series 5-2, but anything can happen in October.
The Braves won 90 games this year, taking home the NL East crown. No one expected they would even be in the conversation for the Wild Card coming into the season, let alone the division. However, behind Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuna Jr, Ozzie Albies and several others they became one of the toughest teams in the National League.
Mike Foltynewicz for Game 1
Atlanta has decided to go with Mike Foltynewicz for game one. Folty has had a really solid season on the mound, despite taking 10 losses. He put up an impressive 2.85 ERA and 3.37 FIP and struck out 202 batters over 183 innings. On top of that, Folty actually led the league in complete games with two and shutouts with one. In his last start of the regular season, Mike went five innings and only allowed one run to the Phillies, picking up his 13th win of the year.
Foltynewicz has now been in the big leagues for five seasons. Over those five years, he has only faced the Dodgers twice. The first time came on July 20th of last season. That night he pitched 6.1 innings, allowed three runs on six hits, struck out five and took home the win. He made his most recent start against LA earlier this year, on July 27. In that game, he took the loss, going just five innings and surrendering four runs on six hits, two of which were home runs.
As for postseason experience, Mike has none. He was with the Astros in 2014, they didn’t make the playoffs, and he’s been in Atlanta ever since, they haven’t been in the postseason since 2013. Tonight will mark his first ever postseason start.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers season ended up pretty much the way everyone thought it would. However, no one could have predicted the way they got here. They battled injuries all season, sat 10 games under .500 at one point, trailed first place in the West by as many as nine games and entered September in third place. The return of Justin Turner and the break out of Max Muncy helped carry the Dodgers into a game 163 though, where they defeated the Rockies for their sixth straight NL West crown.
Hyun-Jin Ryu Over Clayton Kershaw for Game 1
In those previous five division title seasons, the Dodgers sent Clayton Kershaw to start game one of all five NLDS’. This year though, they will go with Hyun-Jin Ryu. The reason is simple, Ryu has been better than Kershaw this season and recently. In his last five starts, Kershaw has put up a 4.20 ERA and went just 9-5 on the season despite a 2.73 ERA.
Ryu went 7-3 this year with a 1.97 ERA and 89 strikeouts through 82.1 innings over 15 starts. Baseball Reference has him at a 2.6 WAR, even though his starts were so limited. In his last outing, Ryu went six innings and only allowed one run in a must-win game at San Francisco. That last start may have been the deciding factor in giving him the game one start over Kershaw, who allowed five runs in five innings to the Giants the very next day.
Hyun-Jin has now been with the Dodgers for his entire five-year career. Throughout those years, he has faced the Braves three times. He’s gone 0-1 in those three starts, with a 2.95 ERA through 18.1 innings. The most recent of those starts came all the way back on August 13th of 2014 though, so take that for what it’s worth.
The other factor in choosing Ryu over Kershaw was likely their respective postseason numbers. Kershaw has not been good in the playoffs. In 24 games, 19 starts, he’s gone 7-7 with a 4.35 ERA over 122 innings. Ryu, on the other hand, has been very good in October. His sample size is much smaller, at just 16 innings, but he does have a 2.81 ERA and a 1-0 record over those innings. Tonight will mark his fourth postseason start.
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