Dodgers vs. Braves was always going to be a series circled on the calendar, not just by both teams but across baseball. The winners of the last two World Series face off for three games at Dodger Stadium beginning Monday night, but there’s a familiarity to the rivalry that added a few new wrinkles this offseason.
These two teams are used to each other, having met three times in the last four postseasons, including each of the last two National League Championship Series. But to add to the anticipation, longtime Braves icon Freddie Freeman signed with the Dodgers, on the same day longtime Los Angeles icon Kenley Jansen signed a one-year deal with Atlanta.
It will be the first game for both against their old teams. Both debuted in the majors in 2010. Jansen originally signed with the Dodgers in 2004 (as a catcher!) while Freeman was drafted by Atlanta in 2007.
Dodgers fans have already warmed to Freeman, chanting his name throughout the first home series, including an extended ovation on Thursday. “It’s just special when 50,000 people can create a moment you’ll never forget,” he said.
“There’s going to be emotion, and there should be emotion. I think Freddie’s a guy that embraces emotion. I think that’s a good thing,” manager Dave Roberts said. “I think he’s going to see those guys over there and it’s going to hit him.”
This will be the first game for Freeman against his old team, but the more emotional series will likely be June 24-26, his first games back in Atlanta after leaving the Braves. That connection with old fans comes for Jansen starting Monday night.
Jansen is the all-time Dodgers franchise leader in saves (350), games pitched (701), and relief strikeouts (1,022).
“He better get a very big standing ovation when he first comes out,” Roberts said Sunday.
Roberts was asked if Dodgers fans should boo Jansen for signing elsewhere. He said no, but then thought of a better solution.
“If he gets an out, definitely boo him,” Roberts joked. “But I hope not to see him on the field.”
But whether Jansen will pitch in any of the three games depends on the earlier portions of the game.
To that end, the Dodgers will send Clayton Kershaw, in his first start since Wednesday’s seven perfect innings, and Walker Buehler to the mound to start the first two games of the series, followed by Tony Gonsolin on Wednesday afternoon.
The Braves have Huascar Ynoa starting the opener, followed by Max Fried, making Tuesday a battle of opening day starters. Charlie Morton starts for Atlanta in the series finale.
Roberts said Sunday he planned to start Edwin Ríos on Monday, likely at designated hitter, though that was before Ríos batted twice in reserve in Sunday’s blowout win. Hanser Alberto, with his 113 career wRC+ against left-handed pitchers, will start at third base against Fried on Tuesday.
For those outside of the Dodgers television market, every game of the series will be available on national television. MLB Network will simulcast the Monday and Wednesday games. Tuesday will be on TBS, with Bob Costas and Jeff Francoeur on the call. All three games will also be on SportsNet LA.