Braves at Dodgers – NLDS Game 1 Pick
While the Dodgers, Rockies, Brewers and Cubs were jockeying for playoff positioning earlier this week, the Atlanta Braves were the lone team just sitting back, relaxing and watching things develop. The Braves wrapped up the NL East quite a while ago, and all they could do was wait until the dust settled with the other NL clubs. As it turned out, the Braves got perhaps the resulted they wanted the least. Atlanta will be hitting the road and taking on the defending National League champion Dodgers in the NLDS starting Thursday in Los Angeles.
The Dodgers didn’t breeze their way to the division title the way they did last year, but they are still the odds on favorites to come out of the National League. The Dodgers appear to have an absolutely loaded roster, which makes their struggles all the more curious. In spite of it all, Dave Roberts’ club managed to win 92 games during the regular season, which was enough to get home field advantage this series over the 90-win Braves.
Hyun-Jin Ryu will climb the hill for the Dodgers in Game 1 against right-hander Mike Foltynewicz for the Braves. Most expected Clayton Kershaw to get the nod in Game 1, but Roberts said he wanted all of his pitchers working on normal rest. So, it’ll be Ryu in Game 1 and Kershaw in Game 2.
Ryu has been arguably L.A.’s best starter this season, so the fact that he’s taking the mound in Game 1 shouldn’t be particularly discouraging if you’re a Dodger fan. Ryu was limited to just 15 starts during the regular season thanks to a nasty groin injury, but he was excellent in said 15 outings. The left-hander didn’t allow more than 3 earned runs in any start all season long. He finished the season 7-3 with a tidy 1.97 ERA. His 3.18 SIERA suggests there has been some luck involved in that low ERA, but he has been stellar nevertheless.
Ryu boasted a strong strikeout rate of 27.5 percent during the season, along with a strong ground ball rate nearing 46 percent. The hard contact rate under 34 percent against him wasn’t egregious, and he allowed just 9 total home runs.
Ryu has shown reverse splits over the course of his big league career, and 2018 has been no different. The southpaw has yielded a .314 wOBA to left-handed hitters this season compared to a .254 mark against righties. During the regular season the Braves ranked fourth in the majors in wOBA (.335) against left-handed pitching. Atlanta also had the fourth-lowest strikeout rate (20.1 percent) against LHPs on the season. The Braves did not face Ryu during the regular season.
As for Foltynewicz, the right-hander has taken a leap forward this season. The 26-year-old went 13-10 across his 31 starts during the regular season. He finished with a strikeout rate of 27.2 percent, while his 3.77 SIERA is nearly a full run higher than his 2.85 ERA. Folty is more of a fly ball pitcher than Ryu, and he allowed a higher hard-hit rate of 35.1 percent. He also allowed only 17 homers across those 31 outings.
Foltynewicz did draw one start against these Dodgers back on July 27 in Atlanta. He did strike out 8 over the course of 5 innings, but he also yielded 4 earned runs and walked 3. Walks will be a key for him today. Foltynewicz had a walk rate over 9 percent this season, and control issues have definitely plagued him in the past.
Left-handed hitters have also given him trouble historically. Folty conceded 11 homers to lefties on the year, and over the course of his career he has allowed a wOBA of .340 to hitters that swing it from the left side of the plate. German Marquez has had issues with lefties this season, and during Monday’s Game 163 we saw Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy both take him deep. Muncy, Bellinger, Yasmani Grandal and Joc Pederson will likely be in the lineup tonight. That quartet is certainly capable of inflicting some damage in this matchup with the platoon edge over the Atlanta starter.
I think the Dodgers are the clear favorites to win the National League again this season. Getting through the Braves in this series won’t be easy, but I think tonight’s matchup pretty clearly favors the home team. The Dodgers aren’t giving you much betting value at -176 on the moneyline, but I do like them to cover the runline at +112.
Take the Dodgers to win Game 1.
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