|(2001 was the last time a Braves team got to do this in the playoffs)|
The year 2001; The year Apple announced iTunes at the Macworld Expo, Wikipedia went online, and the world changed forever after September 11. It also happens to be the last year the Atlanta Braves won a postseason series. The Braves captured their first division title since 2005 this season, and beginning tonight, they’ll look to break that 12-year playoff slump against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Yep, back when Enron was still a field (and a corporation) in Houston, the Braves took down the Houston Astros three games to none in the 2001 NLDS. Since then, it’s been early exits from the postseason for Atlanta.
2002 – lost to the San Francisco Giants in the NLDS (3-1)
2003 – lost to the Chicago Cubs in the NLDS (3-2)
2004 – lost to the Houston Astros in the NLDS (3-2)
2005 – lost to the Houston Astros in the NLDS (3-1)
2010 – lost to the San Francisco Giants in the NLDS (3-1)
2012 – lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in Wild Card Playoff (1-0)
That’s a lot of postseason futility.
There isn’t much to say about the upcoming series with the Dodgers other than pitching, pitching, pitching. If you’re a fan of back-to-back taters flying over the fences in an October sky, or practically blacking out your scorecard, then this isn’t the series for you.
The Braves and Dodgers are both going to be scrapping for runs, and trying to manufacture as many as possible.
Get used to hearing single, stolen base and sacrifice fly/bunt a lot this weekend.
Here are the probable pitching matchups:
Thursday 10/3, ATL: Clayton Kershaw (16-9, 1.83 ERA) vs. Kris Medlen (15-12, 3.11 ERA)
Friday 10/4, ATL: Zack Greinke (15-4, 2.63 ERA) vs. Mike Minor (13-9, 3.21 ERA)
Sun 10/6, LA: Julio Teheran (14-8, 3.20 ERA) vs. Hyun-Jin Ryu (14-8, 3.00 ERA)
(If Necessary) Mon 10/7, LA: Freddy Garcia (4-7, 4.37 ERA) vs. Ricky Nolasco (13-11, 3.70 ERA)
(If Necessary) Wed 10/9, ATL: Clayton Kershaw (16-9, 1.83 ERA) vs. Kris Medlen (15-12, 3.11 ERA)
Touching them all:
Old Man Garcia: Freddy Garcia has 10 career postseason starts under his belt, with a 6-3 record and 3.28 ERA while pitching in October. Leaving Paul Maholm off of the 25-man roster and putting Garcia on it might have been a difficult choice for manager Fredi Gonzalez, but it was the right one. Garcia’s veteran presence in the rotation can’t be undersold. He’ll help these young pitchers who have never experienced the pressure of a playoff series.
No More Struggla: Dan Uggla‘s omission from the NLDS roster was another bold move by Gonzalez, but the right one once again. Elliot Johnson not only plays better defense and has greater speed than Uggla, but his bat has been awakened since coming over to the National League. Johnson may not be the man to smack a game-winning homer, but he’s got a better chance of getting a game-winning hit than Uggla does.
Emergency Situation: The Braves have to be better in situational hitting. Leaving runners in scoring position and striking out rather than making productive outs with runners on base can’t happen against a team as good as the Dodgers. The Braves should focus on making contact and putting the ball in play, and not try to swing for the fences quite so often.
Freeman vs. Puig – Round 2: Freddie Freeman and Yasiel Puig are the two big sticks in their respective lineups. Freddie managed to win round one by having the fans vote him into the All-Star game over Puig. Now the huggable Brave is going to have to show exactly why he deserved it more. Either of these hitters can take over a game at any time, or simply end it with one swing.
Oh, and thanks a lot Sports Illustrated…you just had to put two Braves on your postseason preview issue, didn’t you? Atlanta teams (as well as many others) have a history of tripping over their own feet when one of them is featured on the cover of the magazine. Maybe the fact that SI swimsuit model Kate Upton was featured (first time one of their swimsuit models made the cover on a non-swimsuit issue) along with Justin and BJ Upton will bring an end to that hex.
Braves in four games (and I say that sitting here with tickets to game five on my desk).
Michael Collins is an Atlanta sports humorist, columnist, radio host and owner of Georgia Sports Craze. He is a member of the FWAA and eats peanut butter straight from the jar. Follow on Twitter @GaSportsCraze on Facebook here or on Google here