A look at the best-of-five National League division series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves:
(All times EDT) Game 1, Thursday, at Atlanta (8:37 p.m.); Game 2, Friday, at Atlanta (6:07 p.m.); Game 3, Sunday, at Los Angeles (TBA); x-Game 4, Monday, at Los Angeles (TBA); x-Game 5, Wednesday, at Atlanta (TBA). (All games on TBS or MLB Network)
Season Series: Braves won 5-2.
Dodgers: RF Yasiel Puig (.319, 19 HRs, 42 RBIs, 11 SBs), LF Carl Crawford (.283, 6, 31, 15), SS Hanley Ramirez (.345, 20, 57, 10), 1B Adrian Gonzalez (.293, 22, 100), 2B Mark Ellis (.270, 6, 48), 3B Juan Uribe (.278, 12, 50), CF Skip Schumaker (.263, 2, 30), C A.J. Ellis (.238, 10, 52).
Braves: CF Jason Heyward (.254, 14 HRs, 38 RBIs), RF Justin Upton (.263, 27, 70, 161 Ks), 1B Freddie Freeman (.319, 23, 109, .396 on-base average), LF Evan Gattis (.243, 21, 65), C Brian McCann (.256, 20, 57), 3b Chris Johnson (.321, 12, 68), SS Andrelton Simmons (.248, 17, 59), 2B Elliot Johnson (.209, 2, 19 with Braves and Royals).
Dodgers: LH Clayton Kershaw (16-9, 1.83 ERA), RH Zack Greinke (15-4, 2.63), LH Hyun-Jin Ryu (14-8, 3.00), RH Ricky Nolasco (8-3, 3.52).
Braves: RH Kris Medlen (15-12, 3.11 ERA), LH Mike Minor (13-9, 3.21), RH Julio Teheran (14-8, 3.20), LH Paul Maholm (10-11, 4.41) or RH Freddy Garcia (4-7, 4.37 with Orioles and Braves).
Dodgers: RH Kenley Jansen (4-3, 1.88, 28/32 saves), RH Ronald Belisario (5-7, 3.97, 1/5), LH Chris Capuano (4-7, 4.26, 20 starts), RH Carlos Marmol (0-0, 2.53, 21 games with Dodgers), RH Brian Wilson (2-1, 0.66), LH J.P. Howell (4-1, 2.03), LH Paco Rodriguez (3-4, 2.32, 2/5), RH Brandon League (6-4, 5.30 14/19).
Braves: RH Craig Kimbrel (4-3, 1.21, 50/54 Saves, 98 Ks in 67 IP), LH Luis Avilan (5-0, 1.52), RH David Carpenter (4-1, 1.78, 74 Ks in 65 2-3 IP), LH Scott Downs (4-4, 2.49 with Angels and Braves), LH Alex Wood (3-3, 3.13), RH Jordan Walden (4-3, 3.45), RH Anthony Varvaro (3-1, 2.82).
The teams are meeting in the postseason for the first time since the 1996 NL division series, which the Braves swept in three straight games. ... The Dodgers lost 4-1 to Philadelphia in the 2009 NLCS, ending their last playoff trip. ... The Dodgers got swept in a three-game series at Atlanta in mid-May, and then split four games at home in early June before turning their season around. ... Since June 21, the Dodgers went 62-28 to clinch the NL West title. ... Los Angeles finished 11 games ahead of Arizona, the largest margin it has won the division by since moving West in 1958. ... The Dodgers became the third team in major league history to be 9 1/2 games behind and finish in first by 10 or more games, joining the 1911 Philadelphia Athletics (won by 13 1/2 games) and the 1914 Boston Braves (won by 10 1/2 games). ... Don Mattingly, now in his third season with the Dodgers, will be managing in the postseason for the first time. ... Kershaw didn't face the Braves in the regular season. ... Greinke was 1-0 against the Braves, scattering four hits over seven scoreless innings with seven strikeouts. ... Ryu had a no-decision against Atlanta, allowing two runs and five hits in five innings with five strikeouts and five walks. He will make his postseason debut in his rookie season. ... The Dodgers will be without OF Matt Kemp, who was shut down on the final day of the regular season with swelling of a bone in his sprained left ankle. ... Atlanta Game 1 starter Medlen did not allow an earned run in two starts against the Dodgers this season. He went 1-0, surrendering seven hits in 13 2-3 innings. ... California native Freeman went 9 of 26 (.346) with four RBIs against Los Angeles. ... Kimbrel saved four of Atlanta's five victories over the Dodgers, with nine strikeouts in four innings.
Dodgers: They haven't reached the World Series since winning the title in 1988. ... They began the season with one of the highest payrolls in baseball, but by June 21 had dropped a season-worst 12 games under .500 and fell 9 1/2 games behind first-place Arizona. Mattingly was rumored to be on the hot seat. ... Injuries to Greinke, Capuano, Ramirez, Mark Ellis, A.J. Ellis and Kemp were part of the Dodgers' early struggles. ... The arrival of Puig, the energetic Cuban rookie, in early June sparked the team and helped spur the turnaround. ... The Dodgers went 42-8 from late June to mid-August before their momentum ran out and they finished as the third seed in the NL, forcing them to start the playoffs on the road. ... Puig came close to making the NL All-Star team mere weeks after his June 3 call-up. ... Like Puig, Ramirez was instrumental in the turnaround despite appearing in barely half the team's games because of injury. ... It is the team's first playoff berth under new management that includes former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson.
Braves: Atlanta won its first division title since 2005 despite a devastating rash of injuries. Seven players - including starting pitcher Tim Hudson and relievers Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters - are out for the season. ... The Braves also had to deal with two key players, CF B.J. Upton and 2B Dan Uggla, struggling through horrible years. Upton, signed to a five-year, $75.25 million contract before the season and united with younger brother Justin, batted .184 with nine homers, 26 RBIs and 151 strikeouts in 391 at-bats. Uggla played so poorly that he underwent eye surgery in an attempt to improve things, but it didn't help. He hit .179 with 171 strikeouts in 448 at-bats, though he did provide some power with 22 homers and 55 RBIs. Manager Fredi Gonzalez had little choice except to bench the big-money players, adjusting the outfield to put Heyward in center and rookie Evan Gattis in left, while Johnson, acquired off waivers from Kansas City in August, has been starting at second base. ... Gattis, a non-roster player who quit baseball for several years and surprisingly made the team in spring training, turned out to be a godsend. He played catcher, first base and the outfield while showing a penchant for coming through in the clutch. His 65 RBIs led all NL rookies, while his 21 homers ranked second to San Diego's Jedd Gyorko. ... Johnson, a throw-in to the deal that brought Justin Upton to the Braves from Arizona, also had a surprisingly strong season. He led the league in hitting much of the season before finishing second to Colorado's Michael Cuddyer. ... Kimbrel led the NL in saves for the third years in a row with a career-high 50. Over three full seasons in the majors, the hard-throwing right-hander has surrendered just 114 hits with 341 strikeouts in 206 2-3 innings. If the Braves have a lead heading to the ninth inning, the game is as good as over. ... The Braves struck out 1,384 times, tied for the third most in the league. Three players - Uggla, B.J. Upton and Justin Upton (161) - struck out more than 150 times. ... After building a commanding lead in the NL East, the Braves struggled down the stretch, going 13-14 in the final month and failing to win more than two games in a row.
- Cy Young favorite. Kershaw was the only Dodger on the All-Star team. He won the Cy Young in 2011 and is a favorite again. He led the majors in ERA for the third straight year, and his 1.83 mark was the lowest since Boston's Pedro Martinez had a 1.74 in 2000.
- Going low. The Braves led the majors with a 3.18 team ERA, and the Dodgers were second at 3.25.
- Home, Sweet Home: The Braves are baseball's best team home, going 56-25 at Turner Field. The Braves haven't lost more than two games in a row on a homestand since July 3-4, and the only time they've lost as many as three in a row in Atlanta was May 1-3. Of course, playing the first two games at the Ted may not matter as much against the Dodgers, who had the NL's best road record (45-36).
- Postseason Floppers: Atlanta's reputation as a poor playoff team is well-earned, going back to a record streak of 14 straight division titles (1991-2005) that resulted in only one World Series championship. The Braves haven't won a postseason series since 2001, dropping the last seven in a row. Six times in that stretch, they lost the deciding game at Turner Field. The last thing the Braves want is a decisive Game 5 at home.
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