Dodgers vs. Braves Game 4 Pick
Los Angeles Dodgers (48-19) vs. Atlanta Braves (42-25)
When: 8:08 p.m., Thursday, October 15
Starting Pitchers: Clayton Kershaw (0-0, 4.50 ERA, 1.50 WHIP in postseason) vs. Bryse Wilson (0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP in postseason)
Where: Globe Life Field, Arlington, Texas
Have the Dodgers finally figured out the Braves’ pitching, or did Los Angeles just catch lightning in a bottle on Wednesday? The Dodgers set a playoff record for most runs in the first inning of a playoff game on Wednesday by scoring 11 runs, three more than they managed in the first two games combined.
This underscores just how fragile the Braves’ coalition of pitchers are: Atlanta’s staff is basically Max Fried and Ian Anderson, with nothing else beyond them. During this season, Atlanta has won 19 of 23 games when one of their two aces has started, but the Braves are barely a .500 team without one of them on the mound. That actually means that Game 3 was close to an ideal outcome for the Braves, as they lost the game so quickly that they didn’t have to use any of their better relievers against the Dodgers, but it also means that Los Angeles now believes that it’s back in control of this series.
The Dodgers have a much deeper staff than the Braves do, and Atlanta is clearly hoping to follow the Nationals’ blueprint from last year of riding its two aces to victory. It’s a plan that can work, but it’s now clear to both teams that the Braves simply have no margin for error with it.
Return of the King
Clayton Kershaw has been as reliable as it gets for the Dodgers, and Los Angeles now has the luxury of sending him out for this Game 4 matchup after he was scratched for his Game 2 start. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing for Los Angeles because using Kershaw here means that he’s out of commission until Game 7, assuming that the Dodgers even get that far. Obviously, the ideal counter to the Braves’ gambit would have been to have Kershaw go early and try to break up the Braves’ pocket aces with the Dodgers’ own ace, but injuries forced Los Angeles away from that plan.
Instead, the Dodgers now need Kershaw to simply dominate the game and leave no doubt that Los Angeles is the more talented team. More than anything, they need Kershaw to give them the kind of performance that allows them to even the series and send a message to the Braves. If Atlanta is somehow able to steal this game, that’s almost certainly the end for the Dodgers because they would then have to beat both Fried and Anderson to get past a supremely confident Atlanta lineup. The pressure is on, and Kershaw knows how to handle it.
Immune to the Pressure?At first glance, sending a 22-year-old to the mound to face the Dodgers’ ace seems like it might be nothing more than a give-up, but sending a young, inexperienced hurler to the mound in a big game can sometimes work out well for the team that’s forced to do it. Matt Moore, Bob Wolcott, Ryan Merritt, Livan Hernandez, and Tim Wakefield are just a few of the pitchers who came out of nowhere to come up with a big game in the postseason, and three of the five were never heard from again as major league pitchers. The thinking there is that a young pitcher might be oblivious to the pressure that comes with pitching in the postseason, especially in a case like this, where there are few fans in the stands to affect the atmosphere in any way. Wilson doesn’t have much experience, but that can also work in his favor because it means that the Dodgers have never seen him before. If he can keep them off-balance, this game could be there to steal for Atlanta.
- The Dodgers are 6-2 in their past eight playoff games.
- The Dodgers are 1-4 in their past five against the NL East.
- The Braves have won seven of their past eight.
- The Braves are 7-1 in their past eight games after a loss.
- The Braves are 15-5 in their past 20 against the NL West.
- The over is 4-1 in the Dodgers’ past five as a favorite.
- The under is 5-2 in the Braves’ past seven playoff games.
- The Braves have won four of the past five meetings.
If the roof stays open, the wind will push balls toward the first-base side, as it’s coming at 15 miles per hour from the northeast. However, the roof might be ordered closed, which would take weather out of the equation.
Wilson might add his name to the list of pitchers who came from nowhere to earn a big postseason win, but I’m certainly not going to put my money down on him doing that unless it’s via a live bet. The Dodgers are the better team and have much more experience on the mound. There’s no way I’m going against Kershaw in this situation, especially given how many postseason games he’s experienced. He knows how to handle the pressure and should frustrate the Braves all night. I’ll take the Dodgers on the run line.