Dodgers vs. Braves NLDS 2013: J.P. Howell is the Difference-Maker

By Nicholas Crimarco
J.P. Howell
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

There are a lot of high-priced players in the 2013 NLDS matchup between the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers. The Braves have Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton making over $13 million per year, and Brian McCann making a little over $12 million. The Dodgers have 10 players on their roster making over $10 million per season and four making over $20 million per year.

Even with all those big-named players, the person that will be the difference-maker in the series is J.P. Howell, who made $2.85 million in 2013. The former Tampa Bay Rays reliever has postseason experience and is one of the best lefty specialists in all of baseball.

Howell finished the season 4-1 with a 2.03 ERA in 67 games. Against lefties, he threw 32.1 innings with a 1.95 ERA and struck out 36. LHB finished the season hitting .164 against him, and he had a WHIP of 0.84.

Against the Braves this season, Howell pitched 2.1 innings in three games. He gave up zero hits, zero runs and struck out two batters. The Braves feature three prolific left-handed bats in their lineup. First baseman Freddie Freeman, McCann and outfielder Jason Heyward all hit at the top of the lineup and are lefties.

In his career against Howell, Freeman is 0-for-4 with a strikeout in four career at-bats. Heyward is hitless in his only time up against Howell, and McCann struck out both times he faced him.

In a short five-game series, expect Howell to be called upon in late-inning situations whenever the Braves get to the top of their lineup. If he is successful in his stints against these lefties, the Dodgers will find themselves in the NLCS.

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