Dodgers hurting but confident entering NLDS
LA went 2-5 against Braves in 2013 but that was before second-half surge
LOS ANGELES -- With Matt Kemp ruled out for the playoffs and Andre Ethier probably joining him in the next few days, the Dodgers that open the National League Division Series in Atlanta on Thursday are looking like the decimated team that went 2-5 against the Braves in the first half of the season -- swept in a three-game series May 15-17 at Turner Field, then splitting a four-game series June 6-9 at Dodger Stadium.
But manager Don Mattingly didn't give up when the Dodgers were in last place in June, and he's not surrendering now.
"I don't think anybody out there in that room is going to be willing to give this thing up because Matt is hurt," Mattingly said. "Without saying it in a bad way, we played all year long without Matt. We were 42-8 without Matt. We're capable of winning.
"We're not just going to roll over and act like something is wrong now. We're not going to be full strength. If you don't have Andre and you don't have Matt, you're not as good as you could be. But we're still good enough to win."
The main differences between now and then are Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. Kershaw, the Game 1 starter against Kris Medlen, hasn't faced the Braves this year. Greinke, the Game 2 starter against Mike Minor, was on the disabled list with a broken collarbone during the May series and accounted for one of the two wins in June.
"We've got Clayton and Zack going the first two days," Mattingly said. "Anything can happen."
Kershaw is 0-0 with a 2.45 ERA in four career starts against the Braves. In his only start at Turner Field, he struck out 10 and allowed two runs in seven innings. Greinke is 1-1 with a 3.50 ERA lifetime against Atlanta, 0-1 with a 5.73 ERA in one Turner Field start and turning in seven scoreless innings to beat the Braves in Los Angeles.
In the May series, Hanley Ramirez had just strained a hamstring. Mark Ellis, Jerry Hairston and Ted Lilly also were injured. Brandon League was still the closer, the bullpen was charged with all three losses and Yasiel Puig was still at Double-A Chattanooga.
For the second series in Los Angeles, the Dodgers were without Kemp, Carl Crawford and A.J. Ellis. Puig had just started his crazy debut month. The Ricky Nolasco trade hadn't happened yet. In the seven games, three of them were started by either Matt Magill or Stephen Fife.
"They've been the best team in the National League all year until today," Kershaw said of the Braves. "They are kind of balanced all the way around. They have guys having big years offensively and guys that are throwing the ball well right now. It should be a good challenge for us."
"It's not going to be easy," Ramirez said. "We've got to do the little things and try to win Game 1. I think that's the key. Not try to do too much."
"They have a great team," A.J. Ellis said. "They've hit the entire season. They live and die by the long ball. If we execute pitches and keep them in the ballpark, we should be all right. If we play their game, they can do some damage. They play extremely well at home. It's a big test for us."
Neither team played well in September, with the Dodgers losing 14 of their final 23 and the Braves losing 13 of their final 24.
Skip Schumaker, who will take over center field for Kemp, is 4-for-9 lifetime against Medlen. Ramirez is 5-for-9 with a homer.
The injuries to Kemp and Ethier almost assure that outfielder Scott Van Slyke makes the roster. Two of Van Slyke's seven homers were hit against the Braves.
The only other time the Dodgers played the Braves in the postseason was 1996, a three-game sweep by Atlanta in the NLDS with wins by John Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.