The Los Angeles Dodgers are knotted up in a close race for NL West supremacy, and they’ll be looking for wins this weekend in Atlanta against the Wild Card-leading Atlanta Braves. This three-game series gets underway Friday in our National League spotlight matchup of the weekend.
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Dodgers looking to close as strong as they started
Through the first 67 games of the regular season, the Los Angeles Dodgers had one of the best records in baseball of 42-25, and looked well on their way to an NL West title. But a 6-19 run over their next 25 games allowed San Francisco and Arizona to get back into the hunt. Loaded up with new trade acquisitions, the Dodgers are 16-9 on the MLB moneyline over their last 25 games heading into Wednesday, including an 8-4 record in August; putting them in great position to win the division down the stretch.
On the season, the Dodgers rank 26th in the majors in run production with 3.9 runs per game. They addressed their offensive problems by acquiring Hanley Ramirez (.297 BA and 20 RBI in 19 games as a Dodger) and Shane Victorino (nine runs and six RBI in 12 games as a Dodger) at the trade deadline. Matt Kemp (.359 BA, 17 home runs, 48 RBI) and Andre Ethier (11 home runs, 67 RBI) are still the heart of this offense, though Ethier has been swinging a cold bat since the All-Star Break. The Dodgers have averaged 4.7 runs per game over their last 11.
Los Angeles also bolstered its pitching staff at the deadline with the addition of Joe Blanton. Blanton rounds out an outstanding staff that features ace Clayton Kershaw (2.88 ERA), Chris Capuano (3.11 ERA), Chad Billingsley (3.62 ERA), and Aaron Harang (3.76 ERA). The Dodgers rank second behind only Washington in Team ERA on the season at 3.32.
The Dodgers wrap up a four game series with Pittsburgh on Thursday before heading to Atlanta for Friday.
Atlanta Braves trying to keep pace in the NL East
Last year, it was the Atlanta Braves who had opened up a big lead in the NL East only to be chased down by Philadelphia down the stretch. This year, entering Wednesday less than five games behind the Washington Nationals, the Braves are attempting to do the hunting. Atlanta entered Wednesday with a record of 67-49 on the MLB moneyline.
Earlier this year, starting pitching was a glaring weakness for this Atlanta Braves team; but all of a sudden, it looks to be their strength. Trade acquisition Paul Maholm has been sensational in two starts with the Braves so far (with a 1.69 ERA), as has comeback surprise Ben Sheets through six starts (4-2 with a 2.13 ERA). Tim Hudson (12-4 with a 3.59 ERA) is a reliable ace, Mike Minor has been rock-solid since the All-Star Break (2.39 ERA), and Kris Medlen (2.28 ERA) has been strong out of the bullpen and as a starter. With Tommy Hanson returning from the DL on Friday, things are going so well that Atlanta has decided to go with a six-man rotation in August.
Offensively, the Braves continue to get contributions from top to bottom in their lineup, ranking seventh in the majors in run production with 4.7 runs per game. Seven different players have collected at least 50 RBI so far, with Freddie Freeman leading the way with 76 and Jason Hayward leading the team in home runs with 19.
Atlanta finishes a four-game set at home against San Diego on Thursday night.
Atlanta holds slight edge over Los Angeles recently
Looking at the projected pitching matchups for this series, Tommy Hanson will face Chris Capuano on Friday, Ben Sheets will face Aaron Harang on Saturday, and Mike Minor will face Chad Billingsley on Sunday.
In 10 games between these two teams since 2011, Atlanta holds a slight edge on the MLB moneyline of 6-4; but Los Angeles may be turning the tide as it won the only series between these two teams this season two games to one in Los Angeles.
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