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Freddie Freeman’s return to Atlanta, and a Dodgers-Braves series between contenders

The Dodgers and Braves get set for three in Atlanta

Atlanta Braves v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Dodgers are set to continue this long road trip with a visit to the grounds of their last playoff elimination. The first visit to Atlanta since that NLCS Game 6 loss last October would have plenty of layers of emotion on its own, but it’s likely to take a backseat to another storyline.

Braves franchise hero Freddie Freeman will play first base at Truist Park for the first time as a visiting ballplayer. The first series between these two clubs brought plenty of headlines in the reunion department as Freeman hit his first homer of the season on his first at-bat against the Braves.

Although Freeman’s return may be the primary storyline, one can’t afford to lose sight of the significance of this series. The Braves and Dodgers are the last two World Series champions and have been the two best teams in the NL in recent years.

Although the Mets and Padres pose threats to the division crowns, it’s basically a given that Atlanta and Los Angeles will play in October, and they could very well meet each other for the third straight year.

Back home in Los Angeles, the Dodgers took two of three in a series in the middle of April. The Braves will look to return the favor. Atlanta is coming off a thrilling series against the Giants at home in which all three games were close and the Braves were victorious in two of them, both times with a walk-off hit.

The Dodgers, on the other hand, are undefeated in their current road trip coming off a rather uncompetitive sweep of the Cincinnati Reds in which the offense scored 26 runs in three games.

Friday, 4:20 p.m PT

Julio Urías (4-6 2.56) vs. Ian Anderson (6-3 4.56)
TV: SportsNet LA

First and foremost, avid defenders of the pitcher win come and check out this matchup. Urías is experiencing the other end of the spectrum after a magnificent year of run support in 2021. The Dodgers’ lefty is coming off back-to-back quality starts with a total of 16 punchouts.

Ian Anderson is coming off three outings with at least six innings pitched in his last four, but the talented right-hander hasn’t been very consistent, allowing four or more earned runs in two of those games.

Neither starter pitched in the first series between these two ball clubs earlier in the year.

The Dodgers enter this series in a minor hot streak, but the Braves are also winners of 17 out of their last 20. It wasn’t too long ago that this team was boasting the best winning streak in baseball.

Odds: Dodgers are -130 favorites to win the opener, per DraftKings.

Saturday, 4:15 p.m

Andrew Heaney (1-0 0.59) vs. Max Fried (7-2 2.77)
TV: Fox

In a battle of southpaws, the Dodgers send out Heaney for only his fourth start of the year, and his first road one since his Dodger debut in Minnesota. The bar will be very high as Heaney will go up against the Braves ace, one Max Fried.

While Heaney has had a very short 2022 hampered by injuries, Fried continues to establish himself as one of the better pitchers in the National League.

The Braves’ southpaw already has 87.2 innings under his belt and will make his 15th start of the year. Fried’s 3.2 bWAR is second in the National League, and he also has a top 5 FIP (2.71).

The Dodgers know all too well about Fried’s capabilities, as he shut them down in Dodgers Stadium earlier in the year with seven innings of scoreless ball, allowing only two hits, zero walks, and with 8 strikeouts. The offense will look for better luck this time around.

Sunday: 4:08 p.m.

Tony Gonsolin (9-0 1.58) vs. Spencer Strider (3-2 3:40)
TV: ESPN

Gonsolin gets a nationally televised game for a season worthy of national attention. The Dodgers’ right-hander takes his undefeated record to the hill looking to cement a resume worthy of not only an all-star appearance but consideration to start the game for the NL as well.

Gonsolin was the winning pitcher in the last meeting between these two teams, he went six frames of scoreless baseball allowing only a hit with three walks and three strikeouts. That start on April 20th could very well be seen as the beginning of this journey for Gonsolin that has taken him into the national spotlight.

The home Braves will send out rookie sensation Spencer Strider. The talented Clemson alumn taken in the fourth round of the 2020 MLB Draft began the season in the bullpen, but has transitioned into a starter role, and has a whopping 72 strikeouts in 47.2 innings pitched, that’s good for a 36.9 strikeout rate. For context, the MLB strikeout rate is 22.9 percent.

In what figures to be a close series, it is important to point out that the Braves have fared much better than the Dodgers in 1-run games in 2022. Atlanta is 10-8 in these close affairs while the Dodgers are 4-8.

How much stock one must put in those numbers? Not a lot, but it’s still something to be noted.