MLB Postseason Preview: Atlanta Braves vs. Los Angeles Dodgersby Johnnie Black October 11, 2020 3 comments
The National League Championship Series is set to begin on Monday, October 12 at 8:08 p.m. ET. The Atlanta Braves will take on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the best-of-seven series. The teams were the top two seeds in the NL and it was expected to come down to this matchup. Let’s take a look at three keys for each club.
Three Keys to Victory for the Atlanta Braves
Young pitchers continue dominance
The dominance of Ian Anderson and Kyle Wright was mentioned before. One thing to keep in mind is that the Dodgers are a different animal. The Cincinnati Reds and Miami Marlins finished 13th and 11th respectively in the NL in runs scored. The Dodgers finished first. Los Angeles also led the league in HRs with 118. The two newbies to the postseason along with Max Fried are going to have their hands full and will need to continue pitching well.
The big bats need to come through
Atlanta’s bats weren’t too shabby during the season either. They were second to the Dodgers in the NL in runs and HRs. Ronald Acuna Jr. had a decent series against the Reds but went 2-11 with seven Ks against the Marlins. Freddie Freeman had the big 13th-inning hit in Game 1 of the Cincinnati series. Since then he has gone 2-14 and doesn’t have an extra-base hit in the postseason. The Braves need to have their stars produce if they have a shot at winning the series.
Catch the ball
Atlanta’s fielding was decent at limiting egregious errors during the season, but their team DRS of -8 leaves a lot to be desired. The defense will have to make plays. Limiting baserunners and not giving the Dodgers extra outs will be important. The Dodgers know how to get runners on with the fifth-most walks in the NL (228). Los Angeles also doesn’t miss much with the third-fewest strikeouts at 471. The top seed in the NL will be on base and hit a few HRs, but Atlanta needs to eliminate handing them extra opportunities and more baserunners, or this series will be over quickly.
Three Keys to Victory for the Los Angeles Dodgers
The bats need to get hot
As a flip side to the Braves’ young arms keeping the Dodgers bats down after having faced the Reds and Marlins, Los Angeles has faced depleted staffs so far. The Milwaukee Brewers were fifth in the league with a 4.16 ERA but were missing early Cy Young candidate Corbin Burnes. In the next series, they faced the Padres without Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger (except for an inning). The Dodgers will be facing pitchers with some confidence now in Wright, Anderson, and Fried. The bats only scored 18 runs in the first four games of the postseason but exploded for 12 in the final game of the NLDS. They need to keep that hitting going.
The starters need to roll
Walker Buehler will start in Game 1 and then Clayton Kershaw will toe the rubber in Game 2. Those two have to be out there shutting down the big bats of the Braves. Depleting the bullpen early in this series will be detrimental to Dave Roberts and his crew. While they will likely mix and match with Dustin May and Julio Urias as needed, I’m sure Roberts would like to save that combo for Game 3. The aforementioned Braves have a potent lineup and they are healthy with lesser-known players hitting well.
Roberts has been mixing and matching pretty well with his group of Blake Treinen, Brusdar Graterol, and Pedro Baez. They have yet to allow a run in the postseason. Kenley Jansen is the elephant in the room. After a solid start by Kershaw in Game 2 of the NLDS, Jansen was tasked to hold a three-run lead in the ninth inning. He surrendered two runs before being replaced by Joe Kelly. Now Kelly didn’t inspire confidence walking Jake Cronenworth and Manny Machado. Luckily for the Dodgers, Eric Hosmer grounded out to end the game with the bases loaded. It will be a question if Roberts sticks with the traditional closer and goes with Jansen in that situation. Whichever way he goes, the Los Angeles bullpen needs to step up.
The Braves will be able to hit with the Dodgers and Atlanta’s young pitchers will be able to keep the Los Angeles hitters at bay. The series will come down to timely hitting and bullpens. The Braves will get the hits when needed, and Roberts will wind up overusing his bullpen by the end of the series.
Prediction: Braves 4, Dodgers 3
Series MVP: Marcell Ozuna
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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images