Who Will Be the Core Performer for Dodgers-Braves Game 3?
The Los Angeles Dodgers cruised to a relatively easy 6-1 victory in Game 1 behind Adrian Gonzalez's homer and 12 strikeouts from their ace Clayton Kershaw. Going into Game 2, the Atlanta Braves knew it would be a short series if they didn't man up in front of the home crowd.
And that is exactly what Jason Heyward and his teammates did. They tied the series with a 4-3 victory. Now the series moves to Los Angeles for Game 3, with each team sending its best rookie hurler to the mound.
Here are the key players from each team for this upcoming pivotal third game of the series.
"Momentum is the next day's starting pitcher," according to the late Earl Weaver.
The Dodgers' Ryu is going to have to stop whatever momentum the Braves hope they are bringing with them to Los Angeles.
LA's rookie lefty had a 2.13 ERA and 11 strikeouts in his two no-decisions against Atlanta during the season. Overall, the rookie pitcher won 14 games this year. If not for his own teammate (Yasiel Puig) and Miami Marlins future ace Jose Fernandez, Ryu might have been the runaway winner of the National League Rookie of the Year Award.
Getting a strong start out of Ryu will be key to the Dodgers winning Game 3 in LA.
Anyone who writes the story of the 2013 LA Dodgers will be sure to save a chapter for Mr. Puig.
Most say that his ridiculous first month in the big leagues was the main reason LA was able to turn around what could have been a lost season.
Now it's time for Puig to put his imprint on the postseason and really grow his legend.
So far, the Dodgers' rookie phenom has more strikeouts than hits and no runs batted in. A huge game at the plate and in the outfield could be exactly what the Dodgers need to make sure this series doesn't go back to Atlanta for a possible winner-take-all series-ending game on the road.
Here's a fun fact that leaves most Red Sox fans grumbling: Ramirez was once traded for teammate Josh Beckett.
Although Beckett is on the shelf for this postseason, Ramirez is showing signs that he is willing and able to carry the Dodgers offense by himself, if need be. After the first two games of the series, Ramirez already has four hits, three doubles, a home run and four runs batted in.
So yeah, he's kind of locked in.
Especially since it looked like he was fooled on the pitch that he hit out of the park in Game 2, clearing the outfield wall with what looked like a one-handed swing.
If Ramirez continues on this pace, the Braves could be in trouble regardless of what they do.
The Braves are countering the Dodgers' rookie pitcher with a playoff newbie of their own.
Teheran also won 14 games this year with a respectable 3.20 ERA while setting a Braves rookie record by striking out 170 batters. If the right-hander has his good stuff, look for the K's to pile up.
There's always a debate on who has the advantage when a pitcher faces a team for the first time, but Atlanta fans would probably agree that their ballclub's chances of winning go way up if Teheran can get through the Dodgers lineup at least twice before they figure him out.
Justin Upton had nine home runs in the Braves' first 15 games to help them get off to a 13-2 start. If he can regain anywhere close to that form, the Braves will be well on their way to winning this series.
Who will be the key performer?
Heyward's two-run single in the seventh inning of Game 2 stretched the Braves' lead to 4-1. He came through when his team needed him most.
In what some considered a curious move, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly decided to walk Reed Johnson even though that would load the bases and he'd be facing one of the best Braves hitters in Heyward. Yes, LA did it to get the lefty-on-lefty matchup, but Heyward might have made the Dodgers reconsider trying that strategy in the future.
It's going to take more clutch hitting like that from Heyward for Atlanta to wrap up this series.
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