- Mike Petriello, ESPN Insider
The Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers face off in one of the more interesting divisional series of this postseason. The Braves led the NL East nearly wire to wire, easily beating out the favored Washington Nationals, while the Dodgers went on one of the most historic worst-to-first runs in the history of the sport.
As they prepare to meet in Atlanta on Thursday, let's highlight the most important players and matchups.
Braves' X factor: Kris Medlen
Medlen is a very good pitcher who has been handed a nearly impossible task -- outduel the great Clayton Kershaw at least once and possibly twice. Medlen wasn't quite able to repeat the wonderful 2012 run that saw the Braves win all 12 of the starts he made after moving from the bullpen, but he still had a solid 2013 and really turned it on down the stretch, putting up a 49/11 K/BB ratio and a 1.37 ERA over his final nine games.
Kershaw will make it difficult on the Atlanta offense, so Medlen's ability to keep pace is among the most important stories of the series.