The Atlanta Braves take on their old rival, the Los Angeles Dodgers, as the two baseball clubs meet in the National League Division Series.
The former National League West foes meet tonight at Turner Field in the first game (8:37 p.m., TBS) of the best-of-five series.
Here are five keys for the Braves if they want to advance past the opening round:
1. Survive the pitching – The Dodgers have one of the strongest rotations in the game, with former Cy Young winners Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke starting the first two games of the series. The Braves will need to find a way to get to those two and not fall behind before the series shifts to Los Angeles.
2. Help from Heyward – The Braves have Jason Heyward back and healthy entering the playoffs, and his timing at the plate has returned. Atlanta needs Heyward to set the tone at the top of the lineup.
3. Consistency from Freeman and Johnson – The Braves have depended on the bats of Freddie Freeman and Chris Johnson all season. Johnson finished second in the batting race, and Freeman finished third. Atlanta needs more of the same against tough Dodgers pitching.
4. Stopping Hanley – Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig has garnered much of the attention, but former Augusta GreenJacket Hanley Ramirez has been perhaps the best hitter on the team this season. The shortstop is more aggressive and swinging more often this season, and the approach is working.
5. Bridging the gap – The Braves have the best closer in baseball in Craig Kimbrel, who collected 50 saves this season. If they can get efficient innings out of the rotation and other relievers, more often than not, they are in good shape with Kimbrel in the late innings.