Dodgers: Questions the Dodgers Must Answer in the NLDS

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 29: Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches in the bottom of the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on September 29, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 29: Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches in the bottom of the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on September 29, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /
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The Dodgers and Braves will kick things off at 5:37 PM today and while it’s not quite Yankees-Red Sox, this is still a very intriguing division series matchup.

The Dodgers will begin their quest back to the World Series later on today and the first order of business is trying to knock out one of the best young up and coming teams in baseball, the Atlanta Braves.  Despite their playoff inexperience the Braves won 90 games this season so they mean business and will not be an easy match-up for the Dodgers.

These are the main questions surrounding the Dodgers entering their first series of the 2018 playoffs:

1.) Did the Dodgers outsmart themselves starting Ryu in game one?

The Dodgers made an interesting decision to start Hyun-Jin Ryu in game one of the NLDS.  Traditionally it has been Clayton Kershaw starting game one of the postseason but the Dodgers chose to stick with their regular season schedule and start off with Ryu.  Kershaw would still be on track to start game five of the NLDS if the series goes five.

For Hyun-Jin Ryu the only question this season has been health.  When he is healthy he has been one of the Dodgers’ best starting pitchers.  Since the all-star break, Ryu has posted a 1.88 ERA and at Dodger Stadium this season, he posted a 1.15 ERA.  Ryu did not face the Atlanta Braves this season.  If the Dodgers win game one the move will look genius, but if they don’t and Ryu struggles, there will be lots of second guessing.

2.)  Will Kenley Jansen return to form in the playoffs?

The Dodgers got a scare in Monday’s tiebreaker game when Kenley Jansen gave up two runs on two home runs.  Despite converting 38 of 42 saves this season, Jansen has been hit or miss in the last few weeks.  In August after coming back from his heart scare, Jansen struggled mightily posting a 7.88 ERA in August.

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Jansen was much better in September posting a 1.59 ERA and allowing a .154 opponent’s batting average but that was quickly lost due to his struggles on Monday.  If the Dodgers are going to make it back to the World Series, they need their all-star closer to pitch like the dominant closer he is.  Which Jansen shows up this series is up in the air, if the Dodgers are going to advance it needs to be the good version.

3.)  Can Manny Machado revert back to his Baltimore form?

The Dodgers acquired Manny Machado to cancel out the loss of Corey Seager for the season and push the Dodgers over the hump.  While Machado was good in his time with the Dodgers this season, he wasn’t great.  The Dodgers were expecting more from the superstar who is a few weeks away from being a free agent for the first time in his career.

As a Dodger, Machado hit .273 and put up a .487 slugging percentage.  That is a pretty big drop off from the .315 average and .575 slugging percentage that Manny posted with the Orioles this season.  Overall Machado’s 2018 numbers look like his superstar self, but in Dodger blue those numbers took a hit.

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Machado did put the Dodgers ahead in last Saturday’s game with a clutch triple so hopefully that is a precursor of what’s to come in the postseason.  If Manny Machado gets hot in the playoffs and starts hitting like he did in the American League, then he would push the Dodgers over the top and be setup for an even bigger paycheck this off-season.