LOS ANGELES -- The National League Division Series between the Braves and Dodgers has headed west to California for a fresh start, like so many transplanted easterners before it.
Applaud Atlanta if you wanted a drama. Because in Game 2, the Braves won a must-win game by riding Mike Minor, turning double plays, getting timely hits and watching Craig Kimbrel unleash his late-game magic.
And so now the series shifts to the beautiful backdrop of Dodger Stadium and the equally beautiful thought that this clash of NL titans is just getting off the ground.
"Everybody's excited to be here," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Any bumps and bruises and aches, they seem to go away at game time. It's just a different emotion with the playoffs."
Game 3 on Sunday night (8 p.m. ET, TBS) will usher in a different dynamic, in terms of the starting pitching situation, because now we're delving into the lesser-known and undoubtedly unpredictable elements of these two robust rotations.
For those somewhat unaccustomed to either of these two clubs, the national stage provided by Game 3 will be a good chance for "getting to know you."
Or getting to know Ryu, rather.
Tale of the Tape: Game 3
|2013 regular season|
|Overall: 30 GS, 14-8, 3.00 ERA, 49 BB, 154 K||Overall: 30 GS, 14-8, 3.20 ERA, 45 BB, 170 K|
|Key stat: Opponents hitting .067 with bases loaded||Key stat: 2.97 ERA in the second half|
|At Dodger Stadium|
|2013: 15 GS, 7-4, 2.32 ERA
Career: 15 GS, 7-4, 2.32 ERA
|2013: Did not pitch
Career: Did not pitch
|Against this opponent|
|2013: 2 GS, 0-0, 2.13 ERA
Career: 2 GS, 0-0, 2.13 ERA
|2013: Did not pitch
Career: Did not pitch
|Loves to face: Jason Heyward, 1-for-7, 3 K
Hates to face: Freddie Freeman, 3-for-4
|Loves to face: Michael Young 0-for-3, 1 K
Hates to face: Only faced two Dodgers
|Why he'll win: Rises to the occasion on big stage||Why he'll win: Has a lively fastball with good command|
|Pitcher beware: Has not pitched in postseason||Pitcher beware: Inexperienced in October|
|Bottom line: Change speeds and attack the strike zone||Bottom line: Build on strong second half, don't get rattled on the road|
In the Dodgers' Hyun-Jin Ryu and the Braves' Julio Teheran, we'll be witnessing two of the game's more promising -- and somewhat unheralded -- rookies from the 2013 season. Their accomplishments might get lost in the shuffle, given what Jose Fernandez did in Teheran's division or what Yasiel Puig has done on Ryu's own team, but both of these men are more polished than you'd expect given Teheran's age (22) and Ryu's previous inexperience with stateside ball.
The Dodgers took a risk with the lefty Ryu, signing him to a six-year, $36 million deal, but it's paid off handsomely. His 14-6 record and 3.00 ERA is one thing, but his quick adaptation to the Majors was extremely helpful given the rotation instability the Dodgers endured early in the year.
"He's such a smart, intuitive guy who has a great feel for the game of baseball," catcher A.J. Ellis said. "We've really grown together, him and I working together. He's grown with a lot of guys on the team."
Concerns about Ryu have grown in recent days, as he threw a bullpen session in Atlanta Friday under the watch of team surgeon Neal ElAttrache, medical director Stan Conte and Mattingly, and he's been seen wearing a compression wrap around his elbow. But Ryu and Mattingly both made it clear there is no question about his preparedness to start this game.
"We have no concerns about him," Mattingly said.
Perhaps of utmost concern is the gameplan against Teheran, who is known to the Dodgers only through the wonders of technology and advanced scouting. This was the season Teheran, who has been lauded as a top prospect for what feels like forever, made good on all the laudatory things that have been said and written about him and became a legit Major League weapon with ace-type potential. He racks up strikeouts, he limits walks, he has a live and athletic arm. He has shaken off the struggles that defined his early opportunities at the big league level in 2011 and 2012.
"He's a young kid," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We've seen him for 162 games. He just keeps getting better and maturing with experience, and I think we've just seen the tip of the iceberg with him."
Likewise, we've only seen the bare bones of this series. It's headed to Hollywood, the land of rewrites. And its script will start anew.
Braves: Bullpen still a strength
The Braves have the undisputed best bullpen in baseball, and they've needed it thus far in this series. Luis Ayala, Jordan Walden, Alex Wood, David Carpenter and Luis Avilan combined for five innings of work in relief of Kris Medlen in Game 1, and Gonzalez turned to the 'pen again with one out in the seventh inning of Game 2, even though Minor was dealing, in order to play with the matchups.
The bullpen came through each time, but it wasn't easy in Game 2. Carpenter, who allowed just 0.69 homers per nine innings this season, served up a two-run blast to Hanley Ramirez in the eighth, before Kimbrel came out for a four-out save. By and large, though, the 'pen has come as advertised.
"We're very confident in those guys down there," Braves catcher Brian McCann said. "You get late into the game, we like our chances. Hand the ball to Kimbrel, we like our chances. They've been steady."
Dodgers: Hanley hurting but still helping
Ramirez's bum lower back doesn't seem to be bothering him. He's 4-for-9 with three doubles and a homer in this series. The Dodgers were careful not to play Ramirez on back-to-back days the last couple of weeks of the season, so there was concern about how he'd handle the rigors of the postseason.
So far, so good.
Gonzalez had his issues with Ramirez when the two were with the Marlins at the same time, but Gonzalez has great respect for the player Ramirez was and is.
"When I had him in Florida, he won a batting title," Gonzalez said. "And on any given day, he might have been the best player on the field, and I think he's still that same way. He's scary when he comes to the plate, because he can split a gap or he can run you out of the ballpark. He can steal you a base. He's a very talented player."
• Ryu was a once-a-week pitcher in his native South Korea, so maybe this schedule suits him. Then again, maybe not. Ryu last pitched Sept. 29, so he'll be making this start on six days' rest. On regular (four days') rest this season, Ryu was 5-4 with a 3.26 ERA. On five days' rest, he was 7-1 with a 2.12 ERA. But on six days' rest, he was 2-3 with a 3.65 ERA.
• Ramirez is merely the second Dodgers shortstop since the team moved to Los Angeles in 1958 to log two doubles in a postseason game. The other? Maury Wills, who went 4-for-5 with two doubles in Game 5 of the 1965 World Series against the Twins.
• Kimbrel's four-out save in Game 2 was the first multi-inning save by a Braves pitcher in the postseason since John Smoltz went two innings to finish the job in Game 1 of the 2001 NLDS against the Astros.
• The Braves went 40-41 on the road this season. They were the only division champion to finish with a losing road record.