LOS ANGELES DODGERS (67-52)
at ATLANTA BRAVES (60-57)
First pitch: Monday, 7:10 p.m. ET
Line: Atlanta -165, Los Angeles +155, Total: 7
Two storied franchises, the Dodgers and Braves, begin a four-game series at Turner Field on Monday night.
Los Angeles has gone 13-9 (.591) since the All-Star break to take a solid 4.5-game lead over the Giants in the NL West. The Dodgers were nearly swept in Milwaukee this weekend though, and after their offense mustered up a measly four runs over the first two games, they were saved by ace Clayton Kershaw who went eight strong inning (6 H, 1 ER, 6 K’s) in the 5-1 victory on Sunday. Despite some offensive struggles, 1B Adrian Gonzalez (.269 BA) has found his stroke and is 9-for-14 with three doubles, two home runs and 7 RBI over his past four contests. Atlanta had lost eight straight games -- all of which were on the road -- going into its weekend series against the NL East-leading Nationals, but was able to take 2-of-3 games in the return home, trimming the division deficit to 3.5 games behind Washington. The Braves' 3-1 win in the rubber match on Sunday was a microcosm of what they have done to be successful as the starting pitching of Alex Wood (7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 12 K’s) saved a below-average offense which is third-worst in the league in runs scored (437). 1B Freddie Freeman (.288 BA) has been a bright spot in their lineup, especially in the past four games where he's 8-for-15 with two doubles, a homer and 4 RBI. Newly acquired RHP Kevin Correia (5-13, 4.94 ERA) will toe the rubber for L.A. in this one, while Atlanta counters with flamethrowing, 23-year-old RHP Julio Teheran (10-8, 2.92 ERA). The Dodgers have done much better on the road this year with an MLB-best record of 37-25 (.597), but will have a tough time against the Braves who are an excellent 33-25 (.569) at Turner Field. These two clubs met just a two weeks ago (July 29-31) when L.A. swept three games at home to push its record in this series over the past three years to 11-9, but Atlanta holds the 5-3 edge at Turner Field during this timeframe. Some trends bettors may want to consider in this game include that the Braves are 87-49 (.640) under manager Fredi Gonzalez after having lost 4 or 5 of their previous six games, but the Dodgers are a stellar 35-8 (.814) versus an NL team with a batting average of .250 or worse in the second half of the season over the past two years. Los Angeles’ offense may be thin on Monday though with OF Yasiel Puig (back) questionable and SS Hanley Ramirez (side) on the 15-day DL. The one injury to watch for on Atlanta is SS Andrelton Simmons (ankle) who is questionable for the contest.
Kevin Correia has had a long career with 344 games pitched (213 starts) at the major-league level, and the Dodgers are hoping that he can provide just enough depth when needed. He’s never been an ace by any terms of the word and has over a 4.15 ERA in each of the past five seasons. With a pitiful 4.2 K/9 this year, Correia is by no means a strikeout pitcher, but has solid control (2.2 BB/9) and has done a pretty good job keeping the ball in the ballpark with 13 homers allowed over 129.1 frames (0.90 HR/9) with the Twins. Correia had quality starts in his final two outings with Minnesota as he combined to pitch 12 innings while allowing five runs (4 ER) and striking out seven with only one walk. In his 12 career games (8 starts) against the Braves, Correia is 3-3 with a 4.20 ERA and dreadful 1.62 WHIP, while allowing six home runs in 45 innings of work. When he last faced Atlanta on May 20, 2013, the right-hander was tagged for five runs on eight hits in just four innings of work. OF Justin Upton has been great against the veteran in his career, as he is 16-for-44 (.364) with four doubles, 1 HR and 2 RBI. Overall, the players in Atlanta’s lineup have combined to go 38-for-108 (.352) against the righty with 13 extra-base hits (.500 SLG). SS Andrelton Simmons is the only player to really struggle versus Correia, going hitless in five at-bats. The Dodgers’ bullpen has gone 12-18 this year with a 3.68 ERA and 1.33 WHIP, while converting 35-of-45 (78%) save chances. Closer Kenley Jansen (3.00 ERA, 32 saves) has struck out 14.1 batters per nine innings on the season and is 32-for-36 (89%) in his save opportunities.
Julio Teheran has been great in his second full season at the big league level and ranks in the top-10 among NL pitchers in all the major pitching categories. He's 2nd in innings (163.1), 3rd in complete games (3), 4th in WHIP (1.07), 8th in strikeouts (146) and 10th I ERA (2.92). He is striking out 8.0 batters per nine innings on the year and has shown amazing control (2.0 BB/9) for such a young pitcher. Teheran has been lucky though, benefiting from hitters having a .268 BABIP, which is well below the league average of .298 BABIP. He’s lasted at least seven innings in seven of his past 10 outings, and has allowed two or fewer runs in five of those starts. He did very well against the Dodgers two outings ago on July 31, tossing eight innings while allowing only two runs on five hits with nine strikeouts with three walks in a losing effort. In his one other career start against L.A. in last year's playoffs, Teheran was bombed for six runs on eight hits and six runs in just 2.2 innings. No player on L.A. has more than four at-bats against the youngster, and as a team they are 7-for-30 (.233) with three extra-base hits (1 HR) and eight strikeouts when facing him. OF Yasiel Puig was the player to take Teheran yard in their last matchup, but the Dodgers may not miss their other injured star, SS Hanley Ramirez, who went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts against the right-hander. The Braves relievers are 17-20 with a 3.31 ERA and 1.31 WHIP this season, and have successfully converted 41-of-51 (80%) saves. Craig Kimbrel (1.91 ERA, 34 saves) has been mowing down batters at an incredible rate (15.1 K/9) while allowing one home run in his 47 innings of work (0.19 HR/9).