Dodgers now turn attention to Atlanta Braves and NLDS

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first_imgThe good? The Braves’ sweep occurred prior to the Dodgers’ surge in early summer — and the Dodgers had leads into the sixth inning in all three — so what can anyone really take from it?Put it this way, back in May, when the Braves swept the Dodgers, the starting shortstop and third baseman for the Dodgers were the light-hitting Dee Gordon and non-hitting Luis Cruz.Gordon might end up on the playoff roster, but his role will be a pinch runner off the bench. Barring some crazy, unforeseen slew of injuries he won’t be in the starting lineup.And Cruz isn’t even on the team anymore. In addition, who would you rather play right now? The waiting game finally over, the Dodgers — after a 2-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies on Sunday afternoon — officially turned their attention to the Atlanta Braves and the National League Divisional Series.Nearly two weeks of wondering where they would spend next week and against who, word formally arrived it will be in Atlanta against the Braves.Depending how one looks at it, that’s either good news or dreadful.The bad? The Braves took five of seven games from the Dodgers and swept them in three games in Atlanta. The Cardinals, who steamrolled through September with an 18-8 record and have an uncanny knack of creating magic once they reach the playoffs — see their World Series runs in 2006 and 2011 — or the Braves, who just concluded a 12-14 September?“They’re a good team,” Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw said. “They’ve been the best team in the National League until today. They’ve been balanced all around, had some guys that had big years offensively and had some guys throwing the ball really well. It should be a good challenge for us.”No, the Dodgers’ success this week and beyond isn’t about matchups or drawing a more advantageous opponent.It will come down to health and performance.With health being the most critical component.And right now, it’s difficult to gauge just how healthy they’ll be.Not with Matt Kemp ruled out of the playoffs Sunday by team doctors.And not with Andre Ethier still in Arizona, his bothersome left ankle potentially sabotaging his roster spot in the first round — or severely limiting his availability if he can convince Dodgers brass he can at least pinch hit.The rest of the Dodgers are fairly healthy going into the postseason, and with scheduled days off for travel they can keep an eye on someone like Carl Crawford, whose been monitored all year, and some of the others who are battling various bumps and bruises.But it sure would be more comforting if Ethier and Kemp were guarantees to be relatively healthy, and right now that isn’t the case.The good news is the Dodgers have a two-headed monster atop the pitching staff, and even though they open on the road that’s a whole lot easier to swallow knowing Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke get the nod in Games 1 and 2 in Atlanta, with Ricky Nolasco and Hyun-Jin Ryu waiting behind.Kershaw, who gets the start in the opener Thursday, could be available for Game 4 next Tuesday if needed.Ethier decision due TuesdayThe Dodgers have until Thursday morning to submit their 25-man playoff roster for the NLDS, but Tuesday looms as a huge day for Ethier.Ethier will test the ankle in front of Dodgers brass at a workout Tuesday morning before the club boards their charter flight to Atlanta, and depending on what he shows, he may or may not be on the final 25.“He’s making progress. I don’t know if anything’s gonna go on with Dre and one day he’s gonna be completely healed,” said manager Don Mattingly. “It’s a process of him just getting a little better all the time. We’re seeing progress but we’ll see more on Tuesday during the workout.”The issue is what can Ether do, exactly?If he can’t run then he essentially becomes a pinch hitter off the bench.In theory that sounds OK, until you consider what will happen if he gets on base and is unable to move around at an optimal level.If not, the Dodgers will have to pinch run for him, which eliminates a potential pinch hitter or late-game defensive replacement from the equation later in the game.“We’re open to looking at our roster and figuring the best way to use everyone. And how are we going to use him, what complications are involved in it,” Mattingly said. “If he can’t run it means you have to use another player. If he can run, it’s all the little things like that that will go into making a decision.“That’s what all our discussions will be. Some of it, you can’t make decisions until you see what he can do. And if he can’t run you’re pinch hitting him for somebody and then you’re running with somebody and it’s a three-player move in a sense, if it’s not for a pitcher and that changes what your decision might be.”Like Mattingly said, though, until they actually see Ethier on Tuesday it’s all just a guessing game.“I can be leaning either way, but it doesn’t really matter because we have to first see what he can do,” Mattingly said. “And that’s going to help us make a decision. What can he do what can’t he do?”Rough startThe Colorado Rockies roughed up starter Hyun-Jin Ryu for two runs on eight hits in four innings to beat the Dodgers 2-1 in the regular-season finale Sunday.center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img

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