Los Angeles Dodgers vs Atlanta Braves
How They Got Here:
The Dodgers fought toe to toe with the San Francisco Giants, finishing one game behind their fierce rival with 106 wins in the regular season. After walking off the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL wild card game, the Dodgers dispatched the Giants in the division series in five games, winning game five 2-1.
The Braves endured a roller coaster season, which included inconsistent play, as well as the loss of their best player, Ronald Acuna Jr. to a season ending injury. Atlanta benefitted from playing in the mediocre NL East and righted the ship to win their third consecutive division title. The Braves eliminated the Milwaukee Brewers in 3-1 in the division series.
The Dodgers feature an explosive offense, with the likes of Mookie Betts, Corey Seager, Trea Turner, Justin Turner, Will Smith, and Cody Bellinger (who had a rough regular season but produced the game-winning hit to oust the Giants).
The Braves, despite the loss of Acuna, have talented guys who can swing the bat, as well, including Freddie Freeman, Austin Riley, Ozzie Albies, Joc Pederson, and Adam Duvall.
EDGE: Dodgers. Too many weapons for LA not to get the edge here.
Los Angeles will throw Walker Buehler, Max Scherzer, and Julio Urias, but don’t be surprised to see manager Dave Roberts use any of them in a relief role. The Dodgers’ embarrassment of riches would have been even more if Clayton Kershaw did not suffer a season ending injury.
Atlanta’s starting pitching shut down a weak Milwaukee offense, with Charlie Morton, Max Fried, and Ian Anderson leading the way. They face a much stiffer challenge in this round, however.
Traditional bullpen roles tend to go by the wayside in October. Case on point, Max Scherzer closed out the Giants in game five of the first round. That said, the Dodgers feature Kenley Jansen, Brusdar Graterol, Corey Knebel, Blake Treinen, Joe Kelly, and Phil Bickford. If things get hairy, however, don’t be surprised to see Roberts get creative.
The Braves feature closer Will Smith (no relation to the Dodger’s catcher of the same name), as well as Tyler Matzek, Luke Jackson, and AJ Minter.
Roberts has a plethora of postseason experience and is looking for his fourth pennant in five years.
Meanwhile, Atlanta’s Brian Snitker has quietly had a successful run as the Braves’ manager.
Dodgers in 6.
The Braves gave the Dodgers a run for their money in the 2020 NLCS, losing in seven games after being up 3-1. Unfortunately for them, Los Angeles is simply too talented and too experienced to vanquish those demons.