NLCS Preview: Dodgers vs Braves

NLCS Preview: Dodgers vs Braves

Written by: Jake Tweedie
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 Dodgers vs Braves

Things to Know

– The first time these 2 have met this season. The last time they met in the postseason was 2018. When the Dodgers beat the Braves 3-1 in the NLDS.
– Neither team will be playing in their home parks. These games will be played at a neutral site in Arlington, Texas in Globe Life Park.
– Series is set to begin October 12th. This will give both teams extra time to rest up their stars due to their respective series whitewashes.
– No off days during the series. So pitching depth could become key later in the series, especially given the offensive threat of both teams.

Expected Starting Pitching Matchups

Game 1: Walker Buehler (LAD) vs Max Fried (ATL) – Monday October 12th
Game 2: Clayton Kershaw (LAD) vs Ian Anderson (ATL) – Tuesday October 13th
Game 3: Kyle Wright (ATL) vs Julio Urias (LAD) – Wednesday October 14th
Game 4: Bryse Wilson (ATL) vs Dustin May (LAD) – Thursday October 15th
Game 5: Josh Tomlin (ATL) vs Tony Gonsolin (LAD) ** – Friday October 16th
Game 6: Walker Buehler (LAD) vs Max Fried (ATL) ** – Saturday October 17th
Game 7: Clayton Kershaw (LAD) vs Ian Anderson (ATL)
** – Sunday October 18th
**If Necessary

My expected starting pitcher duels are based on how the Dodgers have lined up in this postseason so far. Game 1 of the NLDS saw Walker Buehler take the mound to start with. Game 2 should see Clayton Kershaw take the start. The two games after that could be dependent on how the Dodgers use their bullpen. Game 3 of the NLDS saw Dustin May take the start for an inning, before Julio Urias taking over. This should change to see Urias start. With Dustin May taking the mound in Game 4, with careful consideration if the series goes to Games 5-7.

On the other side, the Braves have a fairly set first 3 starters. Max Fried should take the start in Game 1. Ian Anderson continuing his SP2 role with the Game 2 start, and Kyle Wright taking Game 3. Bryse Wilson should take the start in Game 4, with the bullpen working Game 5 if required.

Both sets of teams could see their early starters taking the mound again by the later games of the series.


Once again the Number 1 seed dominated. They swept aside the Padres in their three-game series played in Arlington, Texas. To do so against a team containing Fernando Tatis Jr, Manny Machado, and NL ROY Candidate Jake Cronenworth. What was more impressive was the fact that the Dodgers only hit 1 HR in the series, which came in Game 2. Despite scoring 23 runs.

Game 1 saw Buehler face off against Clevinger. Although this duel was short-lived due to Clevinger leaving the game after the first inning, Buehler struck out 8 hitters in his 4-inning start. Dustin May took over and picked up 3 SOs before the bullpen finished off the game by not giving anything away. The Dodgers came away with a 5-1 win, with May picking up the decision.

Game 2 was far closer than the previous game. Kershaw didn’t pitch his usual best, allowing 2 runs in the top of the 6th to be replaced by Treinen and the Dodgers bullpen. A big couple of innings, the 3rd and 4th, saw the Dodgers go-ahead 4-1 before consecutive homers made the tie interesting. Jansen allowed 2 runs in the top of the 9th, but Joe Kelly came in and picked up the save.

Game 3 was utter dominance from the Dodgers. They started off with an inning from May, before Kolarek’s poor 2/3 spell saw him, and the Dodgers go 2-1 down in the bottom of the 2nd. Julio Urias came in and shut things down, allowing just 1 hit and striking out 6 in an impressive 5-inning performance. Treinen and co. continued their fine form by finishing off the match.


As expected in their series with the Marlins, the Braves killed them off in Game 1 with a 7th-inning rally, before shutting them down completely in the two games that followed.

Game 1 was a close match-up. Max Fried wasn’t his usual best, but he struggles against the Marlins, so was easy to see why they targeted him early. Unfortunately for the Marlins, Alcantara couldn’t replicate his usual form against the opponent, allowing 8 hits and 5 runs in his 6-inning appearance. The Braves shut it down after the 4th-inning, allowing just one run from then until the end, whilst having their reliable offense get them out of a jam. A big 6 run 7th-inning led the come back and gave them a much-needed first game win.

Game 2 saw Ian Anderson take the mound, and dominate like he did against the Cincinnati Reds in the Wildcard. Striking out 8 hitters, and allowing just 3 hits in 5.2 innings set the precedent for the game. The Braves bullpen came out and did their job superbly, not allowing a single hit in the last 3.1 innings and picking up a win in Game 2.

Game 3 was their most dominant performance yet. Kyle Wright was solid as he struck out 7 in 6-innings, without giving up a run. The offense then provided 7 runs in a 3-inning spell, allowing the bullpen to take over Wright and see the Braves home with a big 7-0 shutout.

Something To Watch

Which bullpen will come out on top against such offensive oppositions?

There is a lot to say about the offensive capabilities of both the Dodgers and the Braves, but there is some emphasis needed on their bullpens and how they cope with such solid hitters.

The Dodgers finished the season with a run differential of 136, the best this season, before scoring 30 times in just 5 games over the course of their postseason matches against the Brewers and the Padres. What was more impressive is that they only mustered 2 home runs in those 5 games.

Their contact approach was showcased by 41 hits across those 5 games, but it goes deeper than just their offense.

Wrenzie wrote about their bullpen dominance in 2020, and this continued into the postseason. They allowed as a unit just 3 runs across the 5 postseason games (although this is debatable due to Kolarek pitching the 2nd inning in the last NLDS game against the Padres and giving up 2 runs).

They did however continue their poor strikeout rate, striking out just 17 hitters, 5 of them coming in Urias’ 3-inning spell in Game 1 of the Wildcard series. Despite this stat, the Dodgers bullpen looked solid and allowed the offensive to go and do their thing without any pressures.

This contrasts significantly to that of the Braves. All but 1 of their games saw shutouts, but the only time it didn’t was when Fried lasted just 4 innings.

There was far less reliance on their bullpen, largely in part that the teams they faced against weren’t as offensive as the Padres or Brewers. This is also down to the starters’ ability to work deep into the games, and allowing the bullpen to only come in and finish them off.

Across their 5 postseason matches, their starters averaged nearly 6 innings each, with the exception of Fried in Game 1 of the NLDS.

This helped their offense as there was less pressure on them to do something early, and this was shown by mixing up when they scored their runs.


The Braves starters’ will outlast their Dodgers counterparts. The Dodgers offense and bullpen will help them sustain any leads that they do pick up, and the Braves’ bullpen will come under pressure.

The Battle of the NL MVP Candidates

Enough about the Dodgers and Braves’ bullpen, and more on the biggest debate between the 2 teams. Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman have both been nominated for NL MVP, but which one will come out on top and who will have the better series?

Although Betts hasn’t stood out in the postseason as of yet in terms of power-hitting, he has driven home 4 runs. This follows a regular season that saw him average .292 with 9 doubles, 16 HRs, 10 SBs, and just 38 SOs in 55 appearances. These stats have rightfully earned him calls to be NL MVP, and he is showing productivity in other ways.

The same couldn’t be said for Freddie Freeman. Averaging just .167 in the postseason so far, after averaging .341 in the regular season, with 23 doubles, 13 HRs, and just 37 SOs in 60 appearances.

After their impressive regular season performances, more was expected from the pair of them in the quest for the World Series. Betts has been the more consistent, just without standing out, whilst Freeman is generally struggling.

The Stars step up in the biggest stages, there is every hope Freeman and Betts decide to explode out of the gates in Game 1. Especially when there is so much emphasis on the pitchers to keep things tight.

Series X-Factors

Dodgers: Corey Seager

With an offensive line-up that includes Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger, Seager stepped up when needed in both the Wildcard series and the NLDS.

The only Dodgers home run in the Wildcard series saw Seager put them 4-2 ahead in the bottom of the 7th. He then followed this up by hitting 2 doubles, and going 4-for-11 against the Padres, with 3 RBIs.

His form continued from a fine 2020 regular season. He hit .307 with a team-high 12 doubles, 15 HRs, and leading the team with 41 RBIs.

With such emphasis on Betts and Bellinger to lead the Dodgers to the World Series, Seager is doing his best to play a similar role for the team and offering them slightly different.

Braves: Travis D’Arnaud

With all the offensive talents on show, D’Arnaud has really impressed in this postseason so far. His couple of appearances against the Reds saw him going 2-for-9. But a 6-for-10 against the Marlins saw his numbers increase.

This included 2 doubles, 2 HRs, and 7 RBIs. As he sparked the Braves into a comeback with 4 RBIs in Game 1. He then hit a HR in the 4th in Game 2 to put the Braves 2-0. And a 2-run double in Game 3.

This form is no shock to the Braves. He averaged .321 in the regular season, with 8 doubles and 9 HRs. The surprising aspect is his ability to pick the team up when needed and spark them into life.

With the reliance heavily on Acuna, Freeman, and Ozuna to be offensive outputs. A new and unlikely source has stepped up when required, and this makes him one to watch for the upcoming series.

Series Prediction:

This series is going to be big. A battle of the 2 highest scoring teams in baseball in 2020, but also teams that have quality pitching. There may be more emphasis on how well the Dodgers bullpen can do. But take nothing away from the Braves’ starting pitchers.

There could be runs galore. Or the pitchers could shut these games down quickly as they look to limit the offensive threat of the likes of Betts, Bellinger, Acuna, and Freeman. What we do have in store is a competitive series that should see it go down to the wire.

Game 1 – Braves. Fried bounces back in style and Buehler allows a few runs to the dangerous Braves line-up.
Game 2 – Dodgers. Anderson has a good game for the Braves but the combination of Kershaw and the bullpen overpower the Braves.
Game 3 – Braves. Wright continues his fine form of the NLDS to limit the Dodgers offense and help the Braves nick a victory.
Game 4 – Dodgers. Bryse Wilson gets targeted by the Dodgers line-up and they take a comfortable victory with May having a good start. Game 5 – Dodgers. Question marks on the starter for the Braves means they may start with a bullpen arm. The Dodgers use Gonsolin as a starter and picks up the win. Game 6 – Braves. The Braves pick up where they left off in Game 1. Fried leads the Braves to a win over Buehler. Game 7 – Braves. Showtime. Kershaw should get the start but the Braves keep it close and the bullpen hangs on to a victory.

Prediction: Braves 4-3

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