by Leo Hainline ’23
In a season that seemed destined to fail, Major League Baseball (MLB) thankfully got its act together and is now at the final stretch of the postseason. The National League Championship Series (NLCS) is set between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves. The American League Championship Series (ALCS) will feature the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays. While the Dodgers are favored to win and have won all five of their playoff games, they run into an equally hot team in the Braves, who will knock off LA and go on to win the World Series.
The MLB playoffs, while having some occasional upsets, have not produced any shocking results. The Braves upsetting the Dodgers in the NLCS will be the series that rocks the league. The team is peaking at the right time. While their pitching was subpar at times throughout the regular season, their rotation has found its rhythm in October, producing four shutouts in their five postseason games played. In 49 innings this postseason, the Braves have shut out their opponents in 46 of them.
Atlanta has more than enough power offensively to outscore anyone. From the top to the bottom of the order, the Braves possess guys opposing pitchers should fear. Ronald Acuña, Jr., Freddie Freeman, Adam Duvall, and Marcell Ozuna can all knock one out of the park at any given at-bat, and their supporting cast features almost no offensive liabilities.
The overall composition of the Braves squad is perfect for a postseason run. In Freeman they have a veteran leader who has been with the team for over a decade . They have an ace in Max Fried who can single-handedly win a game. The rest of the rotation is full of young pitchers who are gaining confidence at the perfect time. And the lineup is composed of players who embrace the spotlight while adding character and a winning culture to the dugout. This team will not back down against the Dodgers, nor will they back down from whatever team they face in the World Series.
The Braves have the advantage of having yet to play the Dodgers this season. Los Angeles only lost one series all year and will come into the NLCS with confidence. But Atlanta will give them a challenge they have yet to see this year, which could very well throw LA off their game. While the NLCS and ALCS, as well as the World Series, are all best-of-seven series that theoretically would work in the favor of the “better team,” the Braves winning a game or two off the bat could get the Dodgers discouraged. Indeed, Atlanta has the roster to beat Los Angeles and then go on to win the World Series.
by Joe Quirk ’23
The Los Angeles Dodgers entered this season feeling like they had an easy path to the 2020 World Series. After losing in the National League Division Series last season to the Washington Nationals, the Dodgers were left with a sour taste in their mouths. It was a tough loss to take after losing the previous two World Series. Somehow, manager Dave Roberts could not find a way to turn an already elite club into world champions. But, with the help of president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, L.A. was able to improve their roster further.
This past offseason, the Dodgers traded Alex Verdugo, a talented, young outfielder, to the Red Sox for Mookie Betts, a former MVP and one of the best outfielders in baseball. Betts joined an outfield that contains recent high-profile signing A.J. Pollock and 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger. That is not even mentioning the rest of the lineup, which features Justin Turner, Corey Seager, Enrique Hernandez, and Max Muncy. The Dodgers are a team that can hit both for power and for batting average in addition to their strong defensive play in the field.
While it may seem like most of the Dodgers’ talent is on the offensive side, this is not the case. The Dodgers possess a strong rotation featuring Walker Buehler, a budding young star with playoff experience, and Clayton Kershaw, one of the best pitchers to ever play. Rookie Dustin May is also pitching very well, as he posted a 3-1 regular season record with a 2.57 earned run average. The bullpen also contains the likes of Joe Kelly, Blake Treinen, Brusdar Graterol and Kenley Jansen, one of the stronger closers in the league. While it is not the best bullpen in baseball, it is certainly capable of getting the job done. Combine that with some elite starters and arguably one of the best lineups in baseball, the Dodgers seem destined for the championship.
There is some cause for concern with Kershaw, however. The legendary pitcher was scratched from his game two start against the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday with back spasms. Getting him back and healthy will be key for Los Angeles moving forward.
This experienced playoff club has easily made it through the first two rounds of this extended playoffs, and now look to knock off the up-and-coming Braves in the NLCS. After that, all that stands between Los Angeles and the championship is the Houston Astros, who lack in the pitching department, or the inexperienced Tampa Bay Rays, who have a lineup that pales in comparison to the Dodgers.