Who Will Be the Core Performer for Dodgers-Braves Game 4?

Tim CurrieContributor IIIOctober 7, 2013

October 6, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers left fielder Carl Crawford (25) catches a fly ball in foul territory in the eighth inning against the Atlanta Braves in game three of the National League divisional series playoff baseball game at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

With a dominant 13-6 route of the Atlanta Braves in Game 3, the Los Angeles Dodgers have retaken the lead in the best-of-five NLDS.  The men in blue put on an offensive display for their home fans in Chavez Ravine, featuring home runs from Carl Crawford and Juan Uribe, and three-hit performances from both Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez.

The Braves now find themselves with their backs against the ropes, facing a must-win Game 4 on Monday night.  The NL East champions will need to find a way to put runs on the board as they face 30-year-old right-hander Ricky Nolasco, while leaving their defensive fate in the hands of veteran Freddy Garcia.

If Atlanta wants to extend their postseason run they'll need to get some big performances out of some of their young stars.  Meanwhile, the Dodgers could send the Braves packing and move on to the NLCS for the first time since 2009.  Let's take a look at some players who could be the core performer for Monday's potentially decisive Game 4.



Jason Heyward

October 6, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Atlanta Braves right fielder Jason Heyward (22) is congratulated by third base coach Brian Snitker (51) after hitting a two run home run in the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game three of the Nation
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The young outfielder showcased his power in Game 3 with a ninth-inning two-run home run.  Unfortunately, that was his only hit in the game, as he went 1-5 at the plate.  If the Braves stand a chance at winning in L.A., they'll need a big game from Heyward.  While his 2013 numbers were pretty pedestrian, the 24-year-old has shown his talent in seasons past.  It'll take an inspired effort, but Heyward has the ability.


Freddie Freeman

Statistically, Freeman enjoyed the best year of his young career in 2013.  Hitting .319 with 23 home runs and 109 RBI, Freeman proved he can be the offensive anchor for the Braves.  He's hit the ball well so far in the series, but he's yet to drive in a run.  He'll need to take ownership of the game if Atlanta stands a chance.


Freddy Garcia

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 17:  Freddy Garcia #50 of the Atlanta Braves pitches in the second inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on September 17, 2013 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Getting the nod as the starting pitcher in Game 4 is 15-year veteran Freddy Garcia.  The 37-year-old will need to find a way to extinguish the red-hot Dodgers offense.  Unfortunately, in 13 games started this year, Garcia has posted a 4.37 ERA, which does not bode well against a stacked Dodgers lineup.  We'll find out if he can turn the clock back a few years and deliver a winning performance when it counts the most.



Hanley Ramirez

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 06:  Hanley Ramirez #13 of the Los Angeles Dodgers hits a RBI triple in the fourth inning against the Atlanta Braves during Game Three of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 6, 2013 in Los Angeles, Ca
Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

Arguably the MVP of the Dodgers' resurgent climb to first place in the NL West, Ramirez has continued to shine in his first postseason experience.  With seven hits in his first 13 at-bats, Ramirez is proving that he can carry his team even against some of the better pitching in baseball.  If he can continue his hot-hitting ways, the Dodgers have a great chance to travel deep into October.


Carl Crawford

The Dodgers leadoff hitter put on a show for the hometown crowd in Game 3, both with his bat and his glove.  Crawford is playing with drive and determination, and if he continues getting on base early and often, L.A. will continue putting up runs on the scoreboard.  As the leadoff man, Crawford can set the tone of the game and might just be the core performer in a Game 4 victory.


Ricky Nolasco

In 15 starts with the Dodgers this season, Nolasco posted an 8-5 win-loss record, flipping the script from his 5-8 record with Miami in the first half of the year.  With a potent lineup supporting him, Nolasco just needs to keep the Braves at bay to give his team a chance at advancing to the NLCS.  Will he be able to rise to the occasion, or will Atlanta get to their former division rival?