NL Championship Series Preview

Story posted October 12, 2020 in Sports, CommRadio by Jeremy Ganes

The National League Championship Series matchup is set, and it features two of the most potent offensive lineups in the NL. The Atlanta Braves take on the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday evening to start a long-awaited NLCS. Let’s have a look at the biggest matchups to look out for in this critical seven-game series.

As mentioned before, few teams in baseball can bring runs across the plate like these two ball clubs. The Braves have power up and down their batting order, led by superstar first baseman Freddie Freeman. Their infield is filled out by very good hitters like Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies, and star outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. rounds out an excellent lineup.

The Dodgers also boast an offense that can change the momentum of a game at any time. Outfielders Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts are two of the best sluggers in the game, as are infielders Corey Seager and Max Muncy. Los Angeles has continued to be one of the highest scoring offenses this postseason, but it hasn’t been the huge scoring that has powered this team alone.

The Dodgers boast a strong rotation of starting pitchers, buoyed by a very experienced ace in Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw has pitched very well this postseason, which is notable given his struggles in his previous postseason appearances. Walker Buehler, Julio Urías and Dustin May have all performed at a high level this October too. The depth of quality starters has made beating the Dodgers very difficult.

Atlanta has gotten its pitching staff right just in time for the postseason, considering that the back end of the starting rotation struggled for much of the regular season. The Braves have the best ERA and highest total of quality starts of any team this postseason, and that is thanks in large part to Max Fried, who tossed seven scoreless innings against the Cincinnati Reds. Rookie starting pitcher Ian Anderson was excellent in a handful of appearances late in the regular season and has thrown 11 ⅔ innings of scoreless baseball in his two postseason starts. His rise late in the year has propped up a pitching staff that was struggling to find consistency outside of Fried. Even third starter Kyle Wright has stepped up with six scoreless innings in his lone playoff start after struggling with a 5.21 ERA in the regular season.

One factor to keep an eye on in determining which team has the edge is which bullpen will outlast the other in a seven-game series. Both teams have the ability to force a low-scoring pitchers duel, leaving only a handful of relievers who would be tasked with closing out a game. Mark Melancon can fill that role nicely for Atlanta, as can Kenley Jansen for Los Angeles. It’s not entirely clear which team is deeper and can dig into the bullpen to survive a high-scoring game that both lineups are capable of forcing, but the experience and history shows that the Dodgers are more than likely the better team in this area.

As exciting as this Braves team can be, the Dodgers have been waiting to finally break through and earn a World Series title in the era of Clayton Kershaw. This might be their best team yet, and this is the year they finally reach the pinnacle of success in the MLB. The Braves will give them plenty of fight, but Los Angeles will ultimately win in six games behind a combination of excellent starting pitching and clutch hitting.

Prediction: Dodgers in 6

 

Jeremy Ganes is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jlg6097@psu.edu.