While the Washington Nationals and their fans were watching the Los Angeles Dodgers dismiss the the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS three games to one, there were many lessons to be learned. Two statistics that pretty much told the story about how the Dodgers were able to dominate the Braves were strikeouts and home runs.
In the four games the two teams played, the Dodgers’ pitchers struck out a staggering 78 Braves. That should not have such a big surprise since Atlanta was near the top of the league in team strikeouts in 2013, Then there is the matter of the Braves leading the league in home runs. Well, against the Dodgers in the NLDS, they were able to manage just one single long ball.
Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt went over each batter in the Braves’ lineup. He and his pitching staff went over hours of tape, finding the holes in each hitter’s swing. Honeycutt made sure that everyone kept true to the game plan: do not throw the ball to any Atlanta hitter’s sweet spot.
Now that is easy to say when you have the best one-two-punch in baseball in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, but to the credit of the entire Dodgers staff, they did their pitching coach proud. 78 strikeouts to one home run is a formula that wins series every time.
The Braves won the season series with the Nationals and claimed the NL East, in the process winning 96 games.The key thing to remember is over 90 percent of the 19 games played between the two teams were decided by two runs or less.
Washington’s top three pitchers Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez all left games with the Braves on multiple occasions with the game tied or with a lead, only to see their team lose. So what is the most important thing that the Dodgers taught the Nationals in their quest to regain the top spot in the NL East?
Get the lead before the eighth inning so that you avoid the Braves closer Craig Kimbrel. Meanwhile, the back-end of the Nationals’ bullpen needs to be more consistent from the the seventh inning on in 2014 and beyond.
Make no mistake about it, the Braves are a good baseball team, but the Nationals are just as good — if not better. These two NL East teams will be battling for many years to come, and the Nats should thank the Dodgers for showing them how to beat the Braves.