The last time the Braves made the playoffs was 2013. Their opponent? The Los Angeles Dodgers, who won that series 3-1. Fast forward 5 years and these are two totally different teams. In fact, there’s only two Braves players that were on that 2013 roster: Freddie Freeman and Julio Teheran. The Dodgers feature 5 players from that team: Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, and Hyun-Jin Ryu. These are not the same teams as back then. The Braves are full of youth and led by two of the best young players in the game, and feature many players who will be making their postseason debut. Meanwhile, the Dodgers have won the NL West 6 years in a row, and feature essentially the same team that lost Game 7 of the World Series last year. This has the potential to be the 2nd best Divisional Series.
Game 1: 10/4 @ Los Angeles at 8:30pm EST on MLB Network
Game 2: 10/5 @ Los Angeles at 9:30 pm EST on FS1
Game 3: 10/7 @ Atlanta at 8pm EST on FS1
Game 4*: 10/8 @ Atlanta at TBD on FS1 or MLB Network
Game 5*: 10/10 @ Los Angeles at TBD on FS1 or MLB Network
While the Rockies and Brewers are a lot alike in some ways, these two teams couldn’t be more different. Really, the only thing the teams have in common is their starters are all really good. The Braves boast young talent, the Dodgers feature experience skill and stars. The differences make for some fun baseball. Normally, you’d see Clayton Kershaw pitch Game 1; however, it appears manager Dave Roberts might be anticipating a Game 5 as he Kershaw slated for Game 2, which would allow him to pitch Game 5 should there be one. Instead, it’ll be another lefty, Hyun-Jin Ryu that will throw Game 1 in LA, while the Braves will counter with Mike Foltynewicz, who was absolutely stellar throughout this year. The Dodgers will likely send out 3 lefties of the 4 starters they have, something most teams would be concerned about facing. But not the Braves, who are strangely better against left handed pitchers. Like I’ve said numerous times, it’ll be the first postseason for players like Ronald Acuna Jr, Ozzie Albies, and Dansby Swanson. While all of those players are great, experience matters come October, and the Dodgers have a HUGE edge in that department. Let’s also not forget the elephant in the room here, the Dodgers have arguably one of the best players in baseball in Manny Machado. Should he get going to Machado standards, they’ll run through the National League.
Series Predictions: Braves in 4; MVP: Freddie Freeman
We say it all the time, that nothing matters once the postseason comes around; but similar to the Brewers owning the Rockies, the Dodgers owned the Braves this season, winning 5 of 7 with a plus 17 run differential. Not ideal for the Braves. In 7 games against the Dodgers, the Braves have scored only 18 runs, that’s an average of 2.5 per game, the Braves will have to score more than that to put this Dodgers offense. I think they’ll do just that. Freddie Freeman is the most important player to the Braves. I think with the size of both ballparks and his ability to place the ball where the players aren’t, he’ll be responsible for driving in a lot of runs, which he will. The biggest problem with the Dodgers is that they’ve often under-performed when it matters most. There’s no bigger spotlight than the playoffs, and while the Dodgers have been there before, something has seemed off about this team all season. Ultimately, I think Atlanta will steal either Game 1 or Game 2, and then win Games 3 and 4 at home to finish off the Dodgers.