Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Atlanta Braves: Keys to Each Team Winning NLDS Game 2
The Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves are gearing up for Friday's Game 2 of the NLDS, so we're getting ready to watch them do battle.
After the Dodgers won Thursday night's game they have a chance to open up a huge lead in the NLDS with a win tonight. Going up 2-0 on the Braves would leave the Dodgers just one win away from a trip to the NLCS.
The Braves, on the other hand, are looking to tie things up at one game apiece with a win tonight.
In a crucial Game 2 that could essentially wrap up the series for the Dodgers, let's take a look at the keys to the game for both teams.
Pitching Matchup: Zack Greinke vs. Mike Minor
The Dodgers will send Zack Greinke to the mound against the Braves' Mike Minor. The two have both been having terrific seasons, as you can see from their stats below:
These two guys found success in the first 162 games of the season, but the postseason could be completely different.
Greinke has struggled in October in the past, posting an ERA of 6.48 in his three postseason starts. Minor, on the other hand, has never pitched in the playoffs before, and the 25-year-old stud could crack under pressure.
These two guys were reliable options in the regular season, but they've become wild cards at this point.
Braves Key: Mike Minor Being Mike Minor
Mike Minor was probably pretty excited when he heard he'd be pitching against the Dodgers in this series.
In the first three seasons of his career, Minor posted an ERA of 2.37 in his three starts against Los Angeles, dominating the team.
This year was no different, as he posted an ERA of 2.25 in his two starts against the team, shutting them down once again.
Minor has been able to keep the Dodgers in check in every start he's had against them, and the Braves are hoping that he can do it once again on Friday.
Dodgers Key: Get to Mike Minor Early
The Dodgers need to score early if they're going to win this game, as Minor has proved that he can beat them if he settles in.
However, the 25-year-old Minor could be nervous for his first postseason start. We've seen October baseball bring out the worst in young players before, and it could easily happen again.
If Los Angeles can't score a few runs on Minor early, they'll lose their chance to score. The Braves have the lowest bullpen ERA in baseball, led by closer Craig Kimbrel. His 1.21 ERA and 0.88 WHIP show just how good he's been this year, and it will be difficult for the Dodgers to come back once he enters the game.
If the Dodgers have a chance to score early, they'd better take it. Otherwise, the team could find it very difficult to provide run support for Zack Greinke.
Braves Key: Use Home-Field Advantage
The Braves should consider themselves lucky that they're playing at home.
The 25-year-old Minor is one of the most important players in tonight's matchup, and having the young kid pitching in front of his home fans as opposed to a hostile crowd could have huge implications.
Apart from the impact the crowd will have on Minor, the Braves are a much better team at home than they are on the road. The team actually played sub-.500 ball away from home, but were 56-25 at home.
That Braves are next to unbeatable in Atlanta, which is why home-field advantage is so important in this critical Game 2.
Dodgers Key: Yasiel Puig Breaking Out
Yasiel Puig can be one of the best players in MLB, or one of the worst.
After an incredible rookie debut in June, during which he hit .436 with seven home runs, he settled down and eventually had a rough September.
Batting .214 in September showed that Puig has weaknesses, and teams finally figured out how to exploit them. Now, the question is whether or not the Braves can exploit those same weaknesses.
Puig went 2-for-4 in the opening game with a pair of singles and a pair of strikeouts. He needs to be productive for the Dodgers to win again tonight, and two more hits could help them go up 2-0 as they head to L.A.