The Dodgers find themselves deadlocked with the Braves 1-1 through the first couple of games in the NLDS. Game 1 went exactly as they scripted it, with the bats backing up Clayton Kershaw, who piled up 12 strikeouts in a 6-1 victory. Game 2 saw the bats fail to deliver in big spots, and the middle relief fall apart in a 4-3 loss.
You could say that we've already seen a lot of good and a lot of bad in the first couple of games. Let's take a look at both sides of the coin.
Clayton Kershaw. As I stated before, Kershaw was awesome in Game 1, giving up one run in seven innings. I wouldn't say he was sensational, because he had definite control issues for a little bit, something that has plagued him just a bit since the start of September. But, as usual, he more than got the job done when it mattered most. He's lined up to start Game 5, and with the series tied right now, that could be a real possibility of taking place.
Hanley Ramirez. An RBI double in Game 1. Another one in Game 2. Then a two-run shot to pull the Dodgers within one in Game 2. The Dodgers rested him just enough entering the playoffs, and it's sure paying off so far, as he's clearly been the best hitter on either side. Plus he only has one of the team's 18 strikeouts through two games, so he's not beating himself. They need his bat to continue to stay hot if they want to win, and there's no reason to think it won't.
Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen. Wilson has pitched the eighth inning in both games, allowing no runs on only one hit while striking out two. He looks ready to be a closer again next season, unless the Dodgers throw a ridiculous amount of money at him to be the setup guy. Jansen finished Game 1 in the non-save situation, and while a couple guys reached, he still struck out the side.
Adrian Gonzalez in Game 1. Game 2 saw nothing much happen, but his huge two-run homer in Game 1 put the Dodgers up 4-0, and was more than enough for Kershaw to cruise from there. I can't imagine the Braves felt good being down two to Kershaw, and four must have sent them into a tailspin.
Yasiel Puig's Game 1. The worry coming into the playoffs was that Puig would try to do way too much, but in the first game, he was great. He singled twice, went beautifully from first to third on another single, tagged up and scored, and doubled up Evan Gattis at first. That's the type of all-around game we love to see. Now if he'd just stop striking out...
Yasiel Puig's strikeouts. Yup. As good as he is at times, he looks just as bad when he tries to hit it to the moon on every swing. He already has four K's, including a really bad looking one in the eighth of Game 2 after Ramirez got them within one. The funniest part was seeing a shot of a clearly annoyed Mark McGwire after that happened. Puig has got to resist the home run swing and stick to singles and running. The Dodgers will be so much better off.
Carl Crawford leading off. Speaking of strikeouts, there's Crawford with four as well. Mattingly put him in the top spot instead of Puig, and while he did reach base twice in Game 1, he was awful the next night. He had the horrible 1-6-3 DP with the Dodgers threatening in the seventh, then K'd to end the game with a runner on first. The Dodgers need him to play better because it's not like he'll sit.
Middle relief not named Brian Wilson. With the Dodgers down 2-1 going into the seventh in Game 2, things went south. First Crawford's DP, then Chris Withrow walked the first batter he faced. Paco Rodriguez gave up the big two-run single to Jayson Heyward to put the Braves up 4-1, and Ronald Belisario walked the only batter he faced. I wasn't a fan of using Withrow to start the inning, but taking Wilson and Jansen out of the equation, maybe there weren't any better options. And that's a problem.
Swings, misses, and double plays. The Dodgers did a lot of that in Game 2. Their leadoff, cleanup, and #5 hitter each struck out twice. Skip Schumaker, Mark Ellis, and Crawford grounded into double plays. Despite outhitting the Braves 10-6, it didn't matter thanks to a lack of execution. And to think they only lost by one is even more frustrating, because if they cut those mistakes by a few, they could've won.
Dee Gordon. Safe or not, the Dodgers need Gordon to get the job done. He's on the postseason roster for one reason and one reason only: steal bases. I sure thought his hand beat the "tag" in Game 2, but the call didn't go their way. If he can't steal that base, he really has no value. Fair or not, his team needs him to make that play.
Mattingly by the book in Game 2. It's easy to blame Mattingly for the moves he made in Game 2 being wrong. If his players executed better, he'd look good. But they didn't, so he doesn't. I didn't like at all how he wouldn't pitch to light-hitting Jose Constanza or Reed Johnson, and instead pitched to Heyward. The whole left vs. left and right vs. right thing drives me nuts. WAY too much value is placed on that old school logic. I know Withrow was pretty bad, but he was just coming off a strikeout of Elliot Johnson, so I'm sure he could've gotten some guy named Constanza. Alas, we'll never know.