MLB playoffs: Dodgers, Braves trying to regain momentum
Atlanta • It's been a while since either team played a truly meaningful game.
The Los Angeles Dodgers took control of the NL West with an amazing 21/2-month stretch and could let off the gas over the final weeks.
The Atlanta Braves won the East going away, their commanding lead not at all threatened by a losing record over the final month.
Now, it's time to get serious again.
They meet Thursday night in Game 1 of the NL division series.
"I don't think we necessarily let up," Dodgers infielder Michael Young said after a workout at Turner Field. "In our situation, we had to get some guys healthy. A couple of guys needed a couple of days off, so we gave it to them. Now we're ready to roll."
Despite having some room for error, the Dodgers are far from healthy going into the playoffs. Slugger Matt Kemp is out for the postseason with an ankle injury, while outfielder Andre Ethier will likely be limited to pinch-hitting duties because of his own ankle issues. He hasn't played in the field since Sept. 13.
The Dodgers certainly won't get any sympathy from the Braves, who lost seven players to season-ending injuries.
Atlanta was bolstered by unlikely contributors such as Evan Gattis, who made the team as a non-roster player in the spring, hit 21 homers and paced all NL rookies with 65 RBIs. He's expected to bat cleanup against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (16-9, 1.83 ERA) in the series opener.
Pittsburgh at St. Louis
The Pittsburgh Pirates are riding high after their first postseason victory in 21 years. They're confident they can beat anybody, anywhere.
A few hours after defeating Cincinnati in the NL wild-card game Tuesday night, the Pirates touched down in St. Louis. They're about to face another familiar foe in an unfamiliar month when they take on the NL Central champion Cardinals in a best-of-five division series.
"We know them, they know us," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "There won't be any ball tricks, I hope. No Statue of Liberty plays."
A.J. Burnett, set to start the series opener Thursday, was a part of three New York Yankees teams that made it to October. He said Wednesday there's a sense of euphoria with this experience that was lacking before.
"I guess the main thing is, over in New York, it's expected every year, you know?" Burnett said. "You tend to get in there a couple of weeks before the season ends. And this one was more of a 'Shock the world, we're going to do it, we made it!' "
The Pirates won the season series 10-9, but the Cardinals overtook them for the division lead with a four-game sweep at home in early September.
MLB playoffs schedule
• Pittsburgh (Burnett 10-11) at St. Louis (Wainwright 19-9), 3:07 p.m. (TBS)
• Los Angeles (Kershaw 16-9) at Atlanta (Medlen 15-12), 6:37 p.m. (TBS)
• Tampa Bay (Moore 17-4) at Boston (Lester 15-8), 1:07 p.m. (TBS)
• Detroit (Scherzer 21-3) at Oakland (Colon 18-6), 7:37 p.m. (TBS)
• Pittsburgh at St. Louis (Lynn 15-10), 11:07 a.m. (MLB)
• Los Angeles (Greinke 15-4) at Atlanta (Minor 13-9 or Teheran 14-8), 4:07 p.m. (TBS)