2013 NLDS: Braves' excellent bullpen is their biggest advantage

Craig Kimbrel - Daniel Shirey

Atlanta has the league's best bullpen and good young starting pitching that will be keys to their hopes for a successful postseason.

The Atlanta Braves are similar to every team that made the post-season, good pitching is a foundation for their success.  For the Braves, their ace may not be one of their starters, it could be their closer Craig Kimbrel.

The Braves closer has pitched in 227⅓ career innings and owns a 1.39 ERA with 381 strikeouts. His ERA the last two years is 1.11. He struck out nine of the 15 Dodgers he faced this year, in just four innings.

Kimbrel is the first pitcher to lead the National League in saves in three consecutive years (Kimbrel had tied for the lead in the prior two seasons, in 2011 with John Axford and in 2012 with Jason Motte, he was the solo man on top in 2013) since 1982.  The last pitcher to do that was Bruce Sutter, the Cub then Cardinal closer who lead four straight seasons (1979-1982).

Kimbrel has very talented bullpen mates in David Carpenter, Anthony Varvaro, and Luis Avilan. That trio combined with Kimbrel this season for a 1.86 ERA with 253 strikeouts and 87 walks in 271 innings. Against the quartet the Dodgers managed to scratch across one run on six hits and two walks in 10⅓ innings this season, with 13 strikeouts.

Alex Wood, who also started this year, will likely be in the bullpen.  Scott Downs, who was acquired during the season from the Angels, has been a bit inconsistent could still make it and the Braves will wait until Thursday to decide on whether or not to put Jordan Walden on the roster, Walden had been dealing with a sore groin.

The Braves led the National League in bullpen ERA (2.46), second in saves with 53 and they did that while pitching the fewest innings as a group in the National League.  There is a 1-run higher difference in ERA between Atlanta's bullpen and Dodger bullpen.

Their starters had an 3.51 ERA, not bad but behind the Dodgers 3.13 starter ERA.

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