Dodgers vs. Braves: Keys to Each Team Winning NLDS Game 3
As Game 3 of the National League Division Series rapidly approaches, both the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers are preparing for what could be a classic series.
The Dodgers pulled out Game 1 in Atlanta, while the Braves stormed back to win a tight Game 2 on their home field.
With the series moving out west to Dodger Stadium, both teams still have plenty to play for.
In the pivotal Game 3, the Dodgers will send rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu to the mound, while the Braves will counter with Julio Teheran.
Here are the three keys for each team for the Game 3 clash that could end up deciding who advances to the National League Championship Series.
*All statistics obtained from baseball-reference.com.
Key for the Dodgers: Continue to Contain Brian McCann
The one player the Braves need to get going at the plate is catcher Brian McCann.
McCann, who is 0-for-5 in the series, has been shut down by Los Angeles pitching in the first two games, and that needs to continue for the Dodgers to be successful.
The Atlanta catcher is the one veteran force in the middle of the Braves lineup, and if he is unable to get going at all during the series, it could be a massive blow to his team's morale.
Game 3 starter Hyun-Jin Ryu has faced McCann just once in his career, on May 17, and in that game, Ryu forced the left-handed slugger into two fly-outs after conceding a walk in the second inning.
Usually in baseball when there is unfamiliarity between a pitcher and a hitter, the pitcher comes out on top.
With not much in-person information to pull from against Ryu, expect McCann to continue his struggles at the plate.
Key for the Braves: Ensure No Lapses Occur in the Outfield
Game 1 presented the Braves with an outfield error that could have easily been prevented.
In the second inning of the 6-1 loss, left fielder Evan Gattis attempted to make a diving catch on a ball hit by A.J. Ellis, but instead he let Ellis earn a double on the play as the ball slid past him.
If he gets the nod in Game 3 on the road, Gattis will have to play in an outfield with smaller dimensions than Turner Field.
While that may seem like an advantage in Gattis' favor, he still has to avoid making bonehead decisions in the outfield that lead to runs.
If Gattis can stay focused in the outfield on Sunday night, it will go a long way in helping a Braves team that needs every break it can take defensively, especially after the last few postseasons.
Key for the Dodgers: Score on Julio Teheran Early in the Game
Atlanta Game 3 starter Julio Teheran delivered several quality performances during the regular season, but there are some flaws in his game.
Teheran has had trouble settling into games at times, as he has given up the most runs in the third (15) and first (13) innings this season.
If the Dodgers can get off to a hot start like they did in Game 1, they will be able to get the crowd behind them as they try to rattle the young Teheran and knock him out of the game early.
The one specific spot in the lineup that has hurt Teheran the most this season has been the cleanup position. Opposing No. 4 batters hit .295 against the right-hander during the regular season.
Los Angeles' No. 4 hitter in the first two games has been first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, and barring a drastic lineup change by manager Don Mattingly, the left-handed slugger will be in the same lineup spot on Sunday.
If the Dodgers can get runners on base early to set up Gonzalez for RBI opportunities, they should be able to knock Teheran around and give Ryu a comfortable lead.
Key for the Braves: Strong Outing from the Setup Men in Bullpen
The Atlanta bullpen has been a bit shaky this season ever since their two top setup men, Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty, went out with injuries.
The same shaky qualities that were shown in the regular season were shown in the first two games of the series from two different members of the bullpen staff.
In Game 1, Jordan Walden was rocked by Hanley Ramirez for a double as he allowed the Dodgers to score an insurance run.
In Game 2, Dan Carpenter gave up a two-run home run to Ramirez in the eighth inning, and because of that mishap, manager Fredi Gonzalez had to call closer Craig Kimbrel in for a four-out save.
There is no doubt that Gonzalez does not want to overwork his closer this early in the playoffs, but he may have to, given the struggles of his bullpen during the season and in the first two games of the series.
Key for the Dodgers: Hanley Ramirez's Late-Game Hitting
As mentioned in the previous slide, Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez has had two big late-game hits already in the series.
In Game 1, Ramirez extended his team's lead to five runs in the sixth inning, while in Friday's Game 2 he pulled the Dodgers within a run of their hosts in the eighth.
If Game 3 comes down to the wire, Ramirez will surely be counted on yet again to deliver a clutch hit against the Braves bullpen.
In the regular season when the Dodgers were tied with Ramirez at the plate, the Dominican native hit .288 with eight home runs and 24 RBI.
Ramirez also hit .368 with runners in scoring position in 2013, which is a statistic that could benefit the Dodgers greatly if Sunday's clash at Dodger Stadium is close in the latter stages.
Key for the Braves: Do Not Be Afraid to Attack When Behind in the Count
If the Braves dig deep into Hyun-Jin Ryu's statistics, they will notice that when the Korean lefty has a count of 0-1 or 1-2 in his favor, he is susceptible to being hit the most.
When ahead in the count 0-1 this season, Ryu has conceded 26 hits, four of which were home runs, and a batting average of .419 to opposing hitters.
With a 1-2 count in his favor, Ryu also gave up 26 hits, but he did record 56 strikeouts in 131 of those situations during the regular season.
Another area where Ryu has conceded over 20 hits this season is on the first pitch, which is something that could benefit the anxious Atlanta lineup.
Ryu gave up 23 hits and 17 runs against batters who made contact on the first pitch in 2013.
What all those numbers mean for the Braves is that they should attack early on in the count against the Dodgers southpaw, who will be making his first postseason start.
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