National League Division Series Game 3: Atlanta Braves at Los Angeles Dodgers - 8:07 p.m. (TBS)
Series tied at 1
If the Braves had lost Game 2 on Friday, we would be talking about the nearly impossible odds of coming back from two games down to win a best-of-five series. Instead, we're talking about whether Julio Teheran can do enough to give the Braves a one-game advantage.
Teheran has perhaps the most talent of any Braves starting pitcher to appear in the series. There's a reason he's the lone No. 1 system prospect of the four starters. Obviously, talent doesn't always equal production, but Teheran emerged in his rookie season and is getting closer to reaching his ceiling of a 2.
What this means for Teheran in one playoff game is he's capable of holding the Dodgers down perhaps more than any other Atlanta starter. Throw out the fact that he's a rookie - players handle the pressure of the postseason differently regardless of age - and focus on his 3.20 ERA and 3.69 FIP in his first full season in the major leagues at 22 years old.
A part of Teheran's emergence has been the reliance on his slider, which he has thrown 20 percent of the time this season. When Teheran was developing as a prospect in the minors, his out pitch was consistently a changeup that was very solid when commanded well, with a curveball as a third offering. But he's now throwing the changeup only 5 percent and the curve 10 percent.
The results say he's distributing his pitches like he should. Teheran's slider induced a swinging strike 37 percent of the time batters attempted a swing this year. The changeup is also 37 percent, but batters are unable to focus on the pitch, making it more dangerous in limited amounts. The curveball has a 24 percent rate.
Zone maps show Teheran works away to both sides, but he also pounds the zone to right-handed batters. This confidence in throwing strikes has helped keep his walk percentage to a low 5.8 percent. The one slight with Teheran is his pronounced split, allowing a .355 wOBA against lefties compared to .258 against righties. That's where the lack of a strong third offering hurts, and when Teheran relies on a change of pace against lefties, sometimes it doesn't end well.
Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu is a typical lefty by arsenal, establishing a low-90s fastball to the corners and using a solid changeup as an out pitch to neutralize the split. He throws a changeup 22 percent of the time, and he adds a slider and curveball around 10 percent each.
Ryu does a good job getting whiffs across the board on his pitches, including a high mark of 30 percent swinging strikes per swing on his changeup. His breaking balls both get around 25 percent. The one pitch that doesn't get many whiffs is the fastball, which is more of an establisher to change the pace. Yet, despite this, Ryu's line drive rate on the fastball remains fairly low, indicating solid command.
As expected, Ryu works away to both sides, and he does so very effectively. Another indication of good command is how he lives on the corners but only has a 6.3 percent walk rate.
Bottom line: If Ryu has his command working, the Braves will have a difficult time squaring balls and making hard contact. He usually doesn't strike out a lot of batters, but he induces weak contact. If Ryu isn't spotting his pitches well, which is certainly possible given neither Clayton Kershaw nor Zack Greinke had good command in their starts, the Braves have the ability to tee off.