Atlanta Braves vs. Los Angeles Dodgers: Keys to Each Team Winning NLDS Game 4
The Braves will send Freddy Garcia to the the hill, while the Dodgers will counter with Ricky Nolasco.
Outside of Game 2, this series has seen the Dodgers dominate at the plate. Regardless, they need one more win to advance to the NLCS.
Here's a look at the keys for each team winning Game 4.
Note: All stats obtained from Baseball-Reference.com.
Braves Key: Get Hanley Ramirez Out
Hanley Ramirez has absolutely owned the Braves this series. Ramirez has gone 7-for-13 with four doubles, a triple, a home run and six RBI. He is a big reason why the Dodgers hold a 2-1 series lead.
He's been hot at the plate for some time now. During September, Ramirez batted .370 with five home runs and 11 RBI.
Freddy Garcia has to keep Ramirez from doing damage. If he has another field day at the plate, the Dodgers will be moving on to the NLCS.
Dodgers Key: Keep Putting Together Multiple-Run Innings
In 26 offensive innings, the Dodgers have scored two or more runs seven times.
If Los Angeles continues to put up multiple-run innings, the Braves are going to have trouble keeping up.
In Game 3, after Atlanta came back to tie the game at 4-4 in the top of the third, the Dodgers scored two runs in the bottom half of the inning and four runs in the fourth to put the game out of reach early.
Multiple-run innings from the Dodgers will force Atlanta to look for the long ball to get back into the game. With that will come more strikeouts, making it easier on Ricky Nolasco.
Braves Key: Freddy Garcia's Postseason Experience
When the Braves purchased the contract of Freddy Garcia from the Baltimore Orioles in August, they had no idea he would be the starting pitcher in a do-or-die game in the playoffs.
But here he is pitching the biggest game of the season for the Braves.
However, he comes with a lot of postseason experience. In 10 postseason starts, Garcia holds a 6-3 record with a 3.28 ERA.
His last start was in the 2011 ALDS while a member of the New York Yankees. He gave up four runs (three earned) in 5.1 innings against the Detroit Tigers and lost the game.
Before that, 2005 was the last time he pitched in the playoffs.
Even though it's been a while since he made a difference in the playoffs, he still has experience he can use. Nolasco has never pitched in the postseason, which is something Garcia and the Braves can take advantage of.
Dodgers Key: Don't Think of Clayton Kershaw as a Security Blanket
Clayton Kershaw isn't scheduled to pitch until Game 5, but the Dodgers shouldn't think of him as a security blanket.
While he'll be a nice asset to have should the Braves win Game 4, the last thing that needs to be on the Dodgers' minds is the fact that Kershaw is going in Game 5. Like any one-game, winner-take-all situation, anything can happen, even to the best pitcher in the game.
Nolasco has to pitch like the season is on his shoulders, and the hitters have to come out with the same fire and energy they had in Game 3.
By doing that, not only would Kershaw not have to pitch in Game 5, but the Dodgers would have him ready to go in Game 1 of the NLCS.
Braves Key: Bullpen Has to Pitch Well
In three games, the bullpen has given up 10 of 22 runs allowed by Atlanta. For a group that was MLB's best during the regular season with a 2.46 ERA, that's not going to cut it.
Even if Garcia gives up a few runs and the Braves fall behind, the bullpen has to hold things down and give the offense a chance to get back into the game.
In Game 3, Alex Wood hurt his own cause in the fourth inning, making a throwing error to first on what would have been the first out. While you can't say what would have happened in the inning had Wood not made the error, the game log does show there would have been three outs made before a run scored.
Who knows what would have happened the rest of the game had the Braves gotten out of that inning unscathed?
For manager Fredi Gonzalez, it comes down to using his best relievers in the biggest situations. That means if the bases are loaded in the sixth inning, Craig Kimbrel needs to be the arm that's called upon. There should be no waiting for the ninth inning for him to get a possible save.
Dodgers Key: Get Garcia's Pitch Count Up
The best way the Dodgers can get Garcia out of the game is by getting his pitch count up.
In 13 starts this year, he's only gone over 100 pitches twice, and that was while with Baltimore. Since he came to Atlanta, his highest pitch total has been 84 pitches.
Los Angeles hitters will do themselves a favor by taking a few pitches and running his pitch count up. The quicker they can get Garcia out of the game, the quicker they can get to the bullpen.
The Dodgers have already shown they can do damage against Atlanta relievers with 10 runs in the series, and they just might do it again.