The Braves are headed West, taking on the gargantuan roster and payroll of the Dodgers in a 3 game series that begins a test of sorts for the Braves. Atlanta are on the way out of their supposed breezy summer schedule, and are still technically a half game behind the also underachieving Nationals.
While there are plenty of rumors rolling around, it seems the Braves are more or less going to be the same club after the trading deadline. Sure, an Andrew Miller or Chris Denorfia may reinforce the bench or bullpen for the long haul, but overall the Braves will be tested to find their consistency within and live up to their potential to take the division.
There isn’t a much bigger challenge in the National League right now than the Dodgers.
The Dodgers started the season in less than expected fashion, as they were just 3 games over .500 entering June. Since then, the Dodgers have “put it together” – also known as “gotten Clayton Kershaw healthy” and just recently swept the Giants + Dan Uggla to pull into first place.
Sorry, I just had to.
Kershaw leads the Dodgers rotation into town that consists of Zack Greinke and a reborn Josh Beckett pitching the other two games. Greinke has continued to be as good as ever, registering a 2.98 FIP, and Beckett has thrived a bit luckily in LA. The rotation, simply put, is going to be dominant.
The bullpen has been a bit of hit and miss for LA. Their trio of closers plan hasn’t exactly worked out – Chris Perez and Brian Wilson both have ERA’s over 5 – and former Brave Paul Maholm has been less than great as the mopup/spot starter. Brandon League on the other hand, is giving LA a bit of hope in salvaging some of that ridiculous 3 year deal they game him. League isn’t striking out many, but his results have been good enough to let his defense handle it easily. J.P Howell has been everything the Braves wish they could trade for in a shutdown lefty, and Kenley Jansen is currently doing his best Craig Kimbrel impression with a 14.3 K/9 and a 2.6 BB/9 rate.
The other side of the ball has been less of a threat to their opponents, as half of their lineup has either been hit with injuries… or hasn’t hit anything. Hanley Ramirez is still going strong into free agency when not botching perfect games, and Juan Uribe sure is making his own three year deal look not that bad in hindsight. Uribe is slashing .301/.331/.419 in only 66 games alongside his trademark bizarre, yet amazing, third base defense. Dee Gordon has 46 steals and a solid .345 OBP, while Yasiel Puig is still looking like the superstar that ESPN tried to make you believe. A fantastic .310/.398/.532 line is just what the Dodgers need for their outfield that is also comprised of overpaid and underpermoring stars Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Carl Crawford.
The road to October begins at the home of the Dodgers, and I hope the Braves show up looking their best.
Braves @ LA Dodgers tickets
10:10 PM EST, Tuesday, July 29th
Probables: Aaron Harang (9-6, 3.31 ERA) vs Josh Beckett (6-5, 2.52 ERA)
10:10 PM EST, Wednesday, July 30th
Probables: Alex Wood (7-8, 3.44 ERA) vs Zack Greinke (12-6, .274 ERA)
10:10 PM EST, Thursday, July 31st
Probables: Julio Teheran (10-6, 2.71 ERA) vs Clayton Kershaw (12-2, 1.76 ERA)