The Dodgers are coming off an impressive offensive display against the Braves last night and will have a chance to close things out tonight. In beating the Braves 13-6, the Dodgers got contributions from Carl Crawford, Juan Uribe, Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez.
Ricky Nolasco was set to start Game 4, but the Dodgers announced that Clayton Kershaw will be on the mound tonight. This is a surprising move by Don Mattingly because it was originally thought that Kershaw would only pitch tonight if the Dodgers had lost Game 3. Kershaw has never pitched on three days rest, but the Dodgers will trust their ace so they can avoid a Game 5 in Atlanta.
Kershaw was spectacular in Game 1 as he went seven innings and only allowed 3 hits, struck out 12, while allowing just one run, but he threw 124 pitches. For the second time in three years, Kershaw will more than likely win his second Cy Young Award this season after a 16-9 record and a phenomenal 1.83 ERA. Although this move might draw a lot of questions, Kershaw reportedly has been asking since the end of Game 3 to make the start tonight.
The Braves will counter with 37-year-old veteran Freddy Garcia, who will be making his return to the postseason after a two-year absence. His last playoff start came as a member of the New York Yankees and he got the loss against the Detroit Tigers in the 2011 ALDS. This season he’s 4-7 with a 4.37 ERA and has bounced around quite a bit. He began the season with the Baltimore Orioles before coming to the Braves and is 1-2 with a 1.65 ERA in six appearances with his new team.
Garcia pitching arsenal includes a split finger fastball, slider, curve ball and a changeup. While he throws his fastball about 45% of the time, his split finger has become one of his favorite pitches this season because they induce ground balls. Garcia is an interesting choice for manager Fredi Gonzalez, but with Tim Hudson injured, it seems Gonzalez felt more comfortable with the experienced Garcia, rather than Paul Maholm who was left off the postseason roster.
The Dodgers’ offense was imposing last night and they will need more of the same to get the victory. Expect more of the same from Hanley, Adrian Gonzalez and Puig, but they’ll need their other role players to step up. Mark Ellis and Skip Schumaker have struggled in the series, combing for 4 hits in 21 at bats and if the Dodgers want to avoid a trip back to Atlanta, it’s all hands on deck tonight.
The Dodgers took everyone by surprise in announcing Kershaw as the starter tonight, but this is clear message that they’re going for the kill and want to avoid playing a Game 5 in Atlanta at all costs.
In case you missed it, here’s the Dodgers pool celebration, PLUS Yasiel Puig’s celebration dance off!