How The Braves And Dodgers Got Here
You know what they say about payback.
The Braves have a lot of motivation to pay back the Dodgers for a crushing defeat in the 2020 NL Championship Series. Last October, the Braves built a 3-1 series lead, only to watch the Dodgers win the final three games to capture the pennant.
Braves Winning Without Their Best Player
A few things are different this time. The Braves are the higher seed and hold home-field advantage. That means they will host Games One, Two, Six (if necessary), and Seven (if necessary).
While the Braves also have a deeper bullpen, they are without their superstar Ronald Acuña Jr., who is out for the season with a torn ACL.
Even without Acuña Jr., the Braves played well down the stretch of the regular season and took care of the Brewers to advance to the NLCS for the 12th time in franchise history. They finished the season with the worst record of any division winner in baseball, but since September 19, Atlanta has won 15 of its 19 games.
Dodgers Coming Off A Rivalry-Winning High
Los Angeles won 106 games in the regular season but finished second to hated rivals, the Giants. After dispatching the Cardinals in the NL Wild Card Game, the Dodgers survived a five-game thriller against those Giants to advance to the NLCS for the fourth time in the last five years.
How will the Dodgers respond after a grueling series and a Game Five where they had to use six pitchers, including two starters? Will there be a hangover, or will they feel some momentum?
Key Dodgers To Watch In NLCS
- Kenley Jansen: The big closer has 18 saves in the postseason, the second-highest total in MLB history. But he’s pitching in his ninth postseason, and he struggled in last year’s World Series. He has yet to allow a run in the ’21 postseason.
- Justin Turner: The redheaded slugger struggled mightily against the Giants. If he gets some hits early, it could be a short series for the Braves.
- Max Scherzer: At 37 years old, it is fair to wonder how long he can keep doing this. At what point will Mad Max run out of steam in a crucial spot and cost L.A.?
Key Braves To Watch In NLCS
- Joc Pederson: The former Dodger will be motivated to get back at his former team. He already has two pinch-hit HRs in the postseason.
- Jorge Soler: The outfielder had just one hit in the NLDS. Acquired in midseason, Soler needs to contribute in this best-of-seven series; otherwise, he’s just taking up space.
- Freddie Freeman: Who else? The long-legged first baseman got on base eight times in the series win over Milwaukee, and his hit won the deciding game. As goes Freddie, so goes the Braves offense.
Surprise Players Who May Rise To Hero Status
- Gavin Lux of the Dodgers has been swinging the bat well this October. The former first-round pick is the type of under-the-radar guy who could produce big hits in the closing rounds of the postseason.
- OK, so maybe he is too legendary already for his October pitching to be a surprise, but Atlanta pitcher Charlie Morton is one to watch. If the Braves are going to upset the Dodgers, Morton will need to continue his Christy Mathewson-like postseason impression. “Uncle Charlie” has an 81-to-24 K-to-BB ratio in the playoffs, and he’s made seven starts allowing one earned run or less.
NLCS Series Odds
NLCS Pick: Dodgers In Six Games
The defending champs are absolutely loaded. They have three or four bench players who could be starting for other teams. They have three legit aces in the rotation (Urias, Buehler, and Scherzer). Many of these Dodgers have played 30-40 postseason games or more over the last few years. This is a team that’s seen it all and doesn’t wilt under pressure. The Dodgers have won six consecutive elimination games going back to 2020.
The pitching depth will wear down the Braves’ homer-happy offense, eliciting lots of swings and misses. The L.A. offense will have an easier time against the Atlanta starting rotation. The Dodgers also have one of baseball’s best players and a super postseason performer in Mookie Betts.
Dodger legend Tommy Lasorda, who died in January, will be smiling from Dodger Blue Heaven as L.A. lifts the World Series trophy for a second consecutive year.