The 2013 NLDS pitting the Los Angeles Dodgers against the Atlanta Braves is set to begin on Thursday night. With the beginning of the series coming quickly, I decided to take the chance to break down the biggest difference maker in the series.
In a five-game series, a quick 2-0 lead can be a death sentence for teams who find themselves stunned and in a deep hole from a powerful 1-2 punch. The Braves could very well find themselves in such a situation if the Dodgers’ powerful combination of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke pitches like it normally does. As such, the role of the starting pitcher is extremely important.
Nevertheless, it is possible that any one of either team’s starting pitchers may only see one game of action if the series is quick. I do not personally believe the series will make it to the fifth and deciding game, so I had to look for an everyday hitter and fielder as the difference maker in this series.
When you look at the Braves’ lineup, there are two clear names that pop up above the rest: Freddie Freeman and Chris Johnson. Freeman has been swinging the bat well all season with an impressive .319 batting average, 23 home runs and 109 RBI. Johnson has been nearly as good as the third baseman boasts a .321 average with 12 home runs and 68 RBI. Although these two are fantastic players, I believe the biggest difference maker of the series will come from the Dodgers’ lineup.
Although the obvious signs point to the rookie, Cuban phenom, Yasiel Puig or the amazing and deadly Hanley Ramirez, my vote goes to the veteran first baseman, Adrian Gonzalez. Despite the fact that Ramirez and Puig are fantastic and exciting players with great batting stats, Gonzalez has been the consistent rock for the Dodgers all season long.
With Puig missing the first couple months of the season and both he and Ramirez missing games here and there because of injury, the two only played 104 and 86 games, respectively. Gonzalez appeared in 157 of the Dodgers’ 162 games and batted a solid .293 on the year while smashing 22 home runs and plating 100 Dodgers. With four career postseason games under his belt, Gonzales is the only one of these three Dodgers with playoffs experience. With his consistency, postseason experience and the fact that he is a 31-year-old, ice-veined veteran, look for Gonzalez to be the difference maker in this NLDS series.