NLCS Preview

Story posted October 16, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Daniel Mader

Now that both NLDS series have wrapped up, we’re down to just two teams who could represent the National League in this year’s World Series. 

The Atlanta Braves will take on the Los Angeles Dodgers in a rematch of last season’s NLCS.  

Before the series begins, let’s examine these two squads—how they got here this season, storylines to watch, along series predictions. 

Los Angeles Dodgers

The defending champion Dodgers started the year with sky-high expectations. 

Fresh off last year's World Series win, they brought back third baseman Justin Turner and signed arguably the top free-agent, starter Trevor Bauer in free agency. 

Despite not taking home the NL West title for the first time since 2012, the Dodgers lived up to their high expectations with a 106-win season. 

Bauer was lost for the season due to issues off the field, leaving Los Angeles’ rotation looking a bit thinner.

How did they address it? By trading for three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer at the trade deadline, while also acquiring star middle infielder Trea Turner in the same deal.  Both have become massive additions to an already stacked Dodgers team. 

With the two-headed monster of Scherzer and Walker Buehler at the top, the rotation is among the league's best. The same can be said for the bullpen, which had the second-best ERA among major league bullpens this season.

With star power throughout the lineup (Mookie Betts, Turner, Cody Bellinger), the Dodgers are a safe bet to put runs on the board nightly. 

After beating the Cardinals in the Wild Card game, the Dodgers had an instant-classic series with San Francisco in the NLDS. Neither side would quit fighting, leading to a deciding Game five, where Los Angeles came out on top, 2-1. Scherzer came in for the save despite being on just two days' rest.

This Dodgers team is tough to beat, with even the 107-win Giants not quite able to pull off a series win. It could be tough for Atlanta to stay competitive in the series. 

Atlanta Braves

The Braves were written off by many when their superstar outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. went down with a season-ending injury on July 10.

They also lost another outfielder, Marcell Ozuna, when he was arrested for domestic violence issues early in the year. However, the front office swung some deals to keep them in the playoff race.

Before the trade deadline, Atlanta acquired Jorge Soler, Joc Pederson and Adam Duvall, three bats who have all had big moments down the stretch. 

The Braves lineup has been a force this season, ranking third in the MLB in regular-season home runs. Among the biggest contributors are Duvall, sleeper-MVP candidate Austin Riley, and second baseman Ozzie Albies. Last year’s MVP, Freddie Freeman, also had a great year with a .896 OPS.

The pitching staff has been led by the trio of Charlie Morton, Ian Anderson and Max Fried. All three had ERAs below 3.60 on the season. 

After taking home the NL East title for the fourth consecutive year, the Braves took on the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLDS, where they won the series 3-1. 

Anderson, Fried and the bullpen were spectacular in the first two Braves wins in the series, allowing no runs in either game, and Freeman’s eighth-inning homer was the difference in Game 4, allowing Atlanta to advance. 

Atlanta will have to heavily rely on that trio of starters mentioned to slow down this star-studded Dodgers lineup.  

Their well-balanced lineup can put up numbers on any night, but Freeman, Albies and the rest of the lineup will have a tough challenge in this NLCS. 

The Braves are deep offensively, but likely not deep enough to challenge Scherzer, Buehler and a great Los Angeles bullpen.

The Dodgers will gentleman's sweep the Braves to return to the World Series for the second consecutive year.

Prediction: Dodgers win series 4-1

Daniel Mader is a second-year student majoring in digital/print journalism. To contact him, email dbm5725@psu.edu.