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Braves to host Dodgers, but lose NLCS home-field edge

PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 1

LA Dodgers at Atlanta

Thu, Oct. 3, Time TBD

TV: TBS

Game 2

LA Dodgers at Atlanta

Fri, Oct. 4, Time TBD

TV: TBS or MLBN*

Game 3

Atlanta at LA Dodgers

Sun, Oct. 6 , Time TBD

TV: TBS

Game 4

Atlanta at LA Dodgers

Mon, Oct. 7, Time TBD

TV: TBS or MLBN*

Game 5

LA Dodgers at Atlanta

Wed, Oct. 9, Time TBD

TV: TBS

The extra benefit of avoiding the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series was left unsaid in the Braves' talk about trying to finish with the best record in the NL and getting home field throughout the playoffs.

The Dodgers, though, are who Atlanta will have to face after the Braves finished behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the best record and at least they do have home field for the best-of-5 series beginning Thursday.

The Braves swept a three-game series from the Dodgers at Turner Field in mid-May -- when it appeared manager Don Mattingly was on the verge of being fired -- and split four games in Los Angeles a month later.

"It will all boil down to pitching," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

That, however, is where the Dodgers are the most feared, especially in the starting rotation.

"They've got (Clayton) Kershaw, (Zack) Grienke and (Hyun-Jin) Ryu. That's pretty good," Gonzalez said.

But Gonzalez quickly added, "We've been pretty good pitching ourselves."

Kris Medlen, who won his last five decisions to finish 15-12 with a 3.11 ERA, will start the opener for the Braves.

"Kershaw is good, but I'm not sure he's pitching any better than Medlen right now," said Braves backup catcher Gerald Laird, who played in the World Series the past two seasons while with St. Louis and then Detroit.

Medlen, who grew up outside Los Angeles, has faced the Dodgers twice this year and hasn't given up an earned run. He worked 13 2/3 while getting a win and a no-decision, giving up just seven hits.

"The key will be treating it as just another game and not getting two keyed up," said Medlen, who lost the NL wild-card game last year to the Cardinals. "I've had success against the Dodgers so far."

The Braves, who finished 96-66, led the NL East for all except one day and had the best record in the majors most of the season. They were 13-14 in September, though, and even cooled off at home.

Atlanta led the majors with a 56-25 home record, but went 7-7 the final month.

NOTES, QUOTES

RECORD: 96-66, first place in NL East

NEXT: Thursday -- Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw, 16-9, 1.83) at Braves (Kris Medlen, 15-12, 3.11)

TEAM MVP: Freddie Freeman hit .443 with runners in scoring position -- second-best in the majors -- and drove in 109 runs -- tied for fourth. The RBI total was the best for a Braves player since Andruw Jones' 129 in 2006 and the most by an Atlanta first baseman since Andres Galarraga's 121 in 1998. Freeman was the constant in a Braves lineup that ran either very hot or very cold. He batted .319 with 27 doubles, two triples and 23 homers, posting an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of .897 thanks to a .396 on-base percentage and .501 slugging mark.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: B.J. Upton signed a five-year contract worth $72 million as a free agent and earned little of it in his first season. The center fielder started just two of last 12 games and was hitless in his final 16 at-bats, finishing with a .184 average. Upton drove in 26 runs in 126 games and had 23 extra-base hits. He is likely to be used only as a pinch runner and defensive replacement in the postseason. The Braves tried everything and just couldn't get his bat going.

TOP PROSPECT: Christian Bethancourt struck out as a pinch hitter in his major league debut Sunday, but he could be a key part of the Braves going forward. The 22-year-old native of Panama may move from the team's catcher of the future to the catcher of the present as early as next season if Brian McCann leaves as a free agent this winter, as many expect. Bethancourt is a defensive whiz and improved his hitting this season at Double-A Mississippi, batting .277 with 12 homers and setting a team record by reaching base safely in 40 straight games.

MEDICAL WATCH:

--C Brian McCann (strained groin) left the Sept. 26 game and missed the Sept. 27-29 games. The Braves are optimistic he will be ready to go for the playoffs.

--RHP Tim Hudson (broken right ankle) went on the 15-day disabled list July 25, and he was transferred to the 60-day disabled list Sept. 2. He underwent season-ending surgery July 26 to repair his fractured right fibula and deltoid ligament.

--INF Ramiro Pena (torn labrum in right shoulder) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 17, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on Sept. 1. He underwent season-ending surgery June 27.

--RHP Brandon Beachy (right elbow inflammation) went on the 15-day disabled list Aug. 23. He had an MRI exam Aug. 21 and after an appointment to see Dr. James Andrews on Aug. 26, it was determined he is suffering only from inflammation, not further structural damage to his surgically repaired right elbow. However, Andrews performed arthroscopic surgery on Sept. 26 to clear debris.

--2B Tyler Pastornicky (torn ACL in left knee) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Aug. 15. He had season-ending surgery Aug. 20.

--LHP Jonny Venters (torn ulnar collateral ligament) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 27, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on July 4. He had season-ending Tommy John surgery May 16.

--LHP Eric O'Flaherty (torn ulnar collateral ligament) went on the 15-day disabled list May 19, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on July 21. He underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery May 21.

--RHP Cristhian Martinez (right shoulder inflammation) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 7, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on Aug. 16. He began a rehab assignment with Double-A Mississippi on June 25 but was shut down after two outings. He had season-ending surgery July 9.