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Dodgers vs. Braves starting lineups for NLCS Game 1

Kiké Hernández starts at 2B against LHP Max Fried

National League Championship Series - Workout Photo by Kelly Gavin/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Dodgers set their starting lineup for Game 1 of the NLCS, including Kiké Hernández starting at second base against left-hander Max Fried of the Braves, as manager Dave Roberts said on Sunday.

“One key thing Kiké always brings is defense, and intensity and preparation. I still like him in the batter’s box, and he’s going to compete,” Roberts said.

Hernández in his career is a .263/.345/.474 hitter against left-handed pitchers, a 120 wRC+, though that’s down to just .217/.260/.413, a 79 wRC+ this season. He also tied for the MLB lead in Defensive Runs Saved (+8) at second base, despite playing roughly 25 games worth of innings at the position, less than half the season.

A 60-game season makes it hard to figure out what is a small-sample fluke and what is real. But the Dodgers’ performance against left-handed pitchers this year was weird. They weren’t getting results early against southpaws early in the season, but the batted ball numbers suggested improvement to come, as did the career marks of the hitters involved.

Through the end of August, 36 games (60 percent) into the season, the Dodgers were hitting .223/.316/.358 against lefties, an 89 wRC+ that ranked 20th in the majors. But then in September, in 24 games the Dodgers blasted southpaws to the tune of .293/.371/.582, a 152 wRC+ that ranked second in baseball.

NLCS Game 1 lineups

Pos Braves Pos Dodgers
Pos Braves Pos Dodgers
CF Acuña Jr. RF Betts
1B Freeman (L) SS Seager (L)
DH Ozuna 3B Turner
C d'Arnaud 1B Muncy (L)
2B Albies (S) C Smith
SS Swanson CF Bellinger (L)
LF Duvall DH Pollock
RF Markakis (L) 2B Hernández
3B Riley LF Taylor
Walker Buehler vs. Max Fried on the mound

That all added up to .250/.336/.442 against lefties on the season, a well-above-average 113 wRC+ that ranked eighth in MLB. The Dodgers are still much better against right-handers, matching the Braves with a league-best 126 wRC+. But being above average against both hands goes a long way in describing why the Dodgers have fared so well this season.

Even with the early struggles against lefties, the Dodgers ended up 13-5 in games started by southpaws against them in the regular season.

Mookie Betts had the oddest year against lefties, just 10-for-54 with one double, hitting .185/.302/.204 against southpaws. His batted ball data, per Baseball Savant, suggested a .253 batting average and .365 slugging percentage, an improvement but still well below his .297/.379/.509 career line, a 133 wRC+, against left-handers.

For what it’s worth, in this postseason Betts is 2-for-3 with a walk and a pair of doubles against lefties (both against Brent Suter in Game 1 of the wild card series). The Dodgers as a team are 13-for-36 with five doubles, 11 walks, and eight strikeouts against southpaws in their five postseason games, hitting .361/.500/.500.

Three Dodgers have homered off Fried, including Max Muncy in Game 3 of the 2018 NLDS, a two-run shot that tied the game at 5-5 and let Walker Buehler off the hook in his first postseason start after giving up a grand slam to Ronald Acuña Jr., a start that Buehler still thinks about occasionally.

Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger also homered against Fried in 2019. Turner is 3-for-4 against Fried, Muncy is 2-for-3 with a walk, and Bellinger is 2-for-6 with a hit by pitch. Hernández is 1-for-3 with a single.

In addition to the Acuña slam, Buehler has allowed home runs in his career to Freddie Freeman (1-for-7) and Nick Markakis (2-for-6 with a walk). Buehler is 2-0 with a 4.67 ERA in three starts against Atlanta, winning both regular season starts in 2018 and 2019, with 19 strikeouts and five walks in 17⅓ innings.

Start times

In case you missed it, MLB announced the LCS schedules through Wednesday. Games 2 and 3 of the NLCS on Tuesday and Wednesday will both start at 3:05 p.m. PT, and will be televised on FS1.