GAME 4, if possible, will begin at 6:37PM PST, Monday at Dodgers Stadium
ATLANTA (AP) — The Los Angeles Dodgers were vulnerable this season against left-handed starters.
That gives the Atlanta Braves hope they can even this NL division series with Mike Minor on the mound.
Minor excelled in two 2013 starts against the Dodgers but the Braves have dropped his last five outings heading into his postseason debut opposite Zack Greinke at Turner Field on Friday night.
Clayton Kershaw struck out 12 over seven innings in a 6-1 victory Thursday in Game 1 for Los Angeles, which scored five runs off Kris Medlen before the Braves right-hander was pulled in the fifth inning.
The Dodgers went 26-27 against left-handers this year and could have a more difficult time getting to Minor (13-9, 3.21 ERA), who closed out his best season by going 0-4 with a 3.94 ERA in his last five outings. He’s focused on getting off to a fast start after allowing seven first-inning runs over his last four.
“Everybody has talked about it,” Minor said. “I think teams have been really aggressive towards me. I throw a lot of strikes, so they don’t want to get deep in the count.”
Minor went 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in two starts against Los Angeles this year, limiting the Dodgers to a .205 average with 15 strikeouts over 12 innings.
“I think the biggest thing tomorrow is going to be nerves, trying to settle myself down and have a good first inning, throw strikes, and get my breaking stuff working early on,” he said.
Greinke (15-4, 2.63) will present a formidable opponent after posting a 1.58 ERA in 12 starts since July 30 – second only to Kershaw’s 1.55 mark for the best in baseball. Greinke, who yielded two runs or fewer in each of those outings, is also 7-0 with a 1.95 ERA in his last 10 road starts. He faced the Braves once this year with seven innings of four-hit ball in a 5-0 victory June 6.
“They’ve got a bunch of power, and you kind of have to locate your pitches,” said Greinke about the Braves. “So I think those are the two main things. If you don’t locate them, they could do some damage.”
Manager Don Mattingly feels good about his chances of going home with a two-game lead behind the right-hander, who went 1-1 with a 6.48 ERA in three postseason starts with Milwaukee in 2011.
“With Zack, we feel pretty much like Clayton, you feel like he’s going to keep you in the game, so he’s going to give us a chance,” Mattingly said. “If we can put some runs up for him and make some plays, we’re going to be in a position to at least be in a close game that you’ve got a chance to win.”
Atlanta will look to capitalize better at the plate after striking out a total of 15 times and going 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position. The Braves totaled five singles.
“We had some people on base, but we had one two-out RBI out of Chris Johnson, and that’s pretty much all we got out of him,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
The Braves have dropped their last four postseason home games, including last year’s loss to St. Louis in the wild-card game, and Gonzalez is hoping nerves will no longer be a factor.
“We’ve got a lot guys out there maybe first time, second game in the postseason, and myself included,” he said. “I think it took us about two or three innings to kind of settle down a little bit.”
Adrian Gonzalez hit a two-run homer off Medlen and Yasiel Puig added two hits in his first playoff game for the Dodgers, who were swept in Atlanta in a three-game set May 17-19.
Mattingly chose Skip Schumaker to start in center field Thursday, with Andre Ethier being limited to pinch-hitting duties in Atlanta because of an ankle injury.