The National League Division Series (NLDS) match-up between the West Division-winning San Francisco Giants and the wild card entrant Atlanta Braves might be the most closely matched of all the division series games in 2010. The teams finish just a game apart in the win department (with San Francisco having won one more — 92) and are only one point apart in team batting average (Atlanta’s edge — .258). Both teams have three pitchers with 10 wins or more. So who has the edge and should be poised to take on the winner of the Philadelphia-Cincinnati contest in the championship series?
The Atlanta Braves roll into the NLDS in Manager Bobby Cox’ last season, motivated by a lot of heart and a tradition of making it to the postseason. They finished 11 games ahead of third-place finishers, the Florida Marlins. The Braves come into the series with two of the best hitters in the Majors — Omar Infante (.321) and Martin Prado (.307). San Francisco places only one hitter in the Top 50 in all the Majors, and Aubrey Huff barely makes the Top 20 in the National League. San Francisco then places three hitters between #42 and #45 (two at .268 and one at .269). But Atlanta places two more hitters above them. San Francisco, however, does have more long-ball hitters, with Huff hitting team-leading 26 home runs on the year. Still, Atlanta seems to have the edge when there are people on base, with five players with 66 RBIs or more. The Giants have only two who can make that claim.
In the pitching department, Atlanta has two of the National League’s winningest pitchers, Tim Hudson (17) and Derek Lowe (16). San Francisco places two pitchers in the Top 20 as well: Tim Lincecum (16) and Matt Cain (13). Still, the Giants boast the best team ERA in the Majors, averaging 3.36. The Braves are close behind with a 3.56 ERA (ranked 3rd in the MLB). And if San Francisco can get a lead, they the best game-Saving pitcher in the Majors with Brian Wilson (48 Saves).
According to ESPN’s power rankings, the Giants are the team to beat in this series. ESPN ranks the Giants at #5 while placing the Braves at #7.
But does one of the teams have a decided advantage. If the Braves’ losing record on the road this season is any indicator (35-46), they are at a disadvantage in the NLDS, since the Giants will be hosting five of the games. And if San Francisco can get a lead, Brian Wilson could be the go-to guy to Save them the wins they need to advance.
NLDS Playoffs Schedule: San Francisco Giants vs. Atlanta Braves
Game 1 — Atlanta Braves @ San Francisco Giants — Thurs., Oct. 7, 9:30 p.m.
Game 2 — Atlanta Braves @ San Francisco Giants — Fri., Oct. 8, 9:30 p.m.
Game 3 — San Francisco Giants @ Atlanta Braves — Sun., Oct. 10, 4:30 p.m.
Game 4* — San Francisco Giants @ Atlanta Braves — Mon., Oct. 11, 8:30 p.m.
Game 5* — Atlanta Braves @ San Francisco Giants — Wed., Oct. 13, 9:30 p.m.
All games to be broadcast on TBS. All game times Eastern Standard Time.
(*) Denotes games to be played if necessary.
NLDS Playoffs schedule and match-up between Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds.