The Pitchuation: Clayton Kershaw takes the mound for the Dodgers for his first playoff game since 2009. This is the third postseason start of his career. He is 0-1, 5.56 ERA with a 1.63 WHIP, and batters have hit .310 against him in postseason action. Both of Kershaw’s playoff starts were at Dodger Stadium. This will be Kershaw’s first postseason start on the road. Kershaw hasn’t faced Atlanta many times in his career. In fact, he hasn’t faced the Braves since September 4, 2011, his only career start at the Ted. In that game, he pitched fairly well, giving up three runs (two earned) and eight hits while striking out 10 in seven innings. He didn’t figure in the decision of a 4-3 Dodgers loss. The Blue Crew was 19-14 in Kershaw’s outings this season. Los Angeles will face Kris Medlen, who is making his first career postseason appearance. He has started three games against the Dodgers, going 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA while allowing just 17 hits in 21 innings and striking out 15. Los Angeles has hit .183 against him in his starts. Pitching against the Dodgers at Turner Field, Medlen has a 1.64 ERA, having allowed 11 hits in 11 innings of work while striking out nine. The Dodgers have hit just .216 against him in Atlanta. This season, the Braves were 18-14 when Medlen pitched.
Braves vs. Kershaw: As you can imagine, since Kershaw doesn’t have much history pitching against Atlanta, a lot of the numbers don’t jump out, but some do. Former Diamondback Justin Upton (.103 with a double and a triple in 29 ABs), Dan Uggla (.083 in 12 ABs), Chris Johnson (.083 with a double in 12 ABs) and Jason Heyward (four ABs, four Ks) have all had little success against Kershaw. Freddie Freeman, however has a home run and two walks in four plate appearances when facing the lefty. Evan Gattis, Brian McCann, Andrelton Simmons and B.J. Upton all have yet to face the Dodgers ace.
Dodgers vs. Medlen: Despite Medlen’s excellent career numbers against the Dodgers, L.A. does have a few batters who have had some success against him. Andre Ethier (.333 with two doubles in 12 ABs), Skip Schumaker (.444, with a double in nine ABs) and Hanley Ramirez (.556, with a home run in nine ABs) have done well. Adrian Gonzalez, Juan Uribe and Carl Crawford, however, are a combined 0-for-14 against the Southern California native. Yasiel Puig is 1-for-3 against Medlen, while Mark Ellis has never faced him.
Feast or Famine: Tony has talked a lot about how the Braves are a team that homers and strikes out a lot. They led the N.L. with 181 bombs and tied for the N.L. lead in whiffs with 1,384 (NYM) in 2013. It bears noting that Kershaw not only led the N.L. with 232 strikeouts in 2013 but he was second in the majors in fewest homers allowed per nine, giving up only 0.42. In his career against Atlanta, he has struck out 10.7 Braves per nine and has given up just one homer in 29 1/3 innings against them, or 0.31 homers per nine.
In The Kershaw ERA: This was an historic season for the Dodgers lefty. Not only did he win his third consecutive ERA title, the first time any pitcher has done that since Greg Maddux in 1993, 1994 and 1995. But here are some other nifty facts about his 1.83 ERA this season: it was the 15th-lowest single-season ERA since 1964; it was the lowest single-season ERA since 2000 (Pedro Martinez — 1.742 ERA); it was the lowest single-season ERA by a left-handed pitcher since 1978 (Ron Guidry — 1.743 ERA), and it was the lowest single-season ERA by a Dodgers pitcher since 1967 (Sandy Koufax — 1.728 ERA).
– Phil Stone