The Atlanta Braves had home field advantage over the Los Angeles Dodgers to start the NLDS on Oct. 3. What the Braves don’t have is Clayton Kershaw or Zack Greinke, which made the Dodgers a favorite despite being on the road. As it turned out, Kershaw easily backed that up in Game 1, although Los Angeles made it easy for him in sending Atlanta to a 6-1 defeat.
While Kershaw was working out the kinks, the Dodgers’ bats gave him some breathing room with two runs each in the second and third. Yasiel Puig scored the first run in his postseason debut, while Adrian Gonzalez opened the game up with a two-run blast in the third. By the time the Dodgers built up a 5-0 lead in the fourth, Kershaw was ready to really get started.
After giving up the Braves’ only run in the fourth, Kershaw struck out the next six Braves batters, tying a playoff record. The last time Atlanta faced a run like that in October is when Curt Schilling struck out five straight Braves to start the 1993 NLCS with the Philadelphia Phillies. Schilling began his legendary postseason resume by winning the MVP of that series, and dooming the Braves to an upset loss.
It wouldn’t be an upset if the Braves lost this series 20 years later, despite their home field advantage and dominance of the NL East. But with Kershaw’s 12 strikeouts over 124 pitches and seven innings, the Dodgers are sitting pretty to start out, especially with Kershaw set for a deciding Game 5 if needed.
The Braves need to be perfect to avoid that scenario, although that will be hard with Greinke -- perhaps the NL’s second best ace behind Kershaw -- looming for Game 2 on Oct. 4. If Atlanta can’t wake up, it will go to Los Angeles down 0-2 and on the brink of sudden collapse.
With Kershaw and Greinke leading the rotation, the Dodgers have a sure-fire formula to take early command of any series -- including the NLCS and World Series, if all breaks well. They are already halfway through pulling it off in the NLDS, as the Braves need their bats and pitcher Mike Minor to spoil the script before going to Hollywood.