In 2015, Don Mattingly got the Los Angeles Dodgers to the NLDS. They lost there and LA moved on from him to Dave Roberts. In Roberts first year he was able to take his team to the NLCS, losing ultimately to the eventual Championship winning Cubs. Last season, the team got better still and made it to the World Series, losing in 7 games to the Houston Astros. Anything less than an improvement, i.e. winning the World Series, will be considered an utter failure this year. The Atlanta Braves are looking to ensure that happens.
This is the 3rd time the Dodgers and Braves have met in the PostSeason, each time in the NLDS. In 1996, the defending champion Atlanta Braves swept the Dodgers on their way to the World Series where they would ultimately lose to the Evil Empire. In 2013, the Braves would lose the series in 4 games, capped off by the puzzling decision to bring in a struggling Dave Carpenter in the 8th inning after securing a one-run lead, instead of lights out closer Crain Kimbrel.
This year, the Dodgers (92-71) will look to continue their success over the Braves (90-72) from the regular season series, where they hold a 5-2 advantage, losing once in each teams park. Interestingly, both teams have better road records than home records this season.
On paper, this series is the Dodgers to lose. They scored more runs, gave up fewer runs to opponents, and come into the series winners of their last 4 games while locked in a competitive battle for the NL West title that had to go to game 163. The Braves clinched the NL East on Sept. 22 and coasted to the finish line, dropping their final two games and giving up
Positionally, the Dodgers hold the advantage over Atlanta at every spot on the field save for 1st base. One could also make the case that the Braves have the superior Left Fielder in NL Rookie of the Year contender Ronald Acuña, Jr over the Dodgers platoon of Matt Kemp/Joc Pederson, but I am always cautious of a high profile rookie in their first PostSeason appearance.
Where the Dodgers really have an advantage though is on the mound. They just announced that Hyun-jin Ryu will start Game 1 against Mike Foltynewicz for the Braves. This might actually be the Braves best chance to steal a game because against Clayton Kershaw, Walker of, and Rich Hill the Braves managed to score 1 run this season over 20 innings, striking out 20 times. Those 3 pitchers will start games 2, 3, and 4 (if needed) respectively. The Braves will run out Kevin Gausman, Anibal Sanchez, and Julio Teheran.
As I said, on paper the Dodgers are clearly the superior team. But absolutely no one expected the Braves to even be a playoff contender this season. They’ve been punching above their weight class all season long. That said, I do not see that continuing against the Dodgers. While possible that the Braves steal a game, maybe even game 1, I am predicting a sweep for the Dodgers.
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