NLDS state of play: Braves, Dodgers on collision course for NLCS

NL East Braves look to continue success
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Ricky Dimon

MLB · 1 year ago

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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

The good news is that the division series in the National League have been wildly entertaining. The bad news is that neither one is likely to last more than three games.

Both matchups are division rivalries, and none of the teams like each other. Tempers have flared in the all-NL East battle between the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins, and the all-NL West showdown featuring the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres has been even more heated.

Heading into Thursday, both the Braves and the Dodgers enjoy 2-0 leads.

Fish fry

The Braves are one game away from bringing out the brooms and advancing to the NLCS for the first time since 2001. It is a scary combination when Atlanta features a lineup that scored the second-most runs in Major League Baseball during the regular season and is also getting the kind of pitching that has been on display through four playoff games. This franchise has already posted three postseason shutouts, including a clean sweep of the Cincinnati Reds in two games and a 2-0 victory over Miami on Wednesday.

It is also scary that the Braves are 4-0 in their playoffs and their vaunted bats (including NL MVP favorite Freddie Freeman) have produced in only one of the four games. During a 9-5 Game 1 victory over Miami, Ronald Acuna Jr. led off with a home run and eventually Dansby Swanson and Travis d’Arnaud also left the yard. Their two runs on Wednesday came on solo shots by Swanson and d’Arnaud. Just think of what this team could do when Freeman and Marcell Ozuna get going again!

The worst-case scenario for Atlanta is that it loses Game 3, would still lead 2-1 and as such could piece together a bullpen day for Game 4 and bring back Fried on normal rest for Game 5 if necessary. When that is the worst-case scenario, you know you are sitting pretty.

This is one Atlanta team that isn’t going to blow its entire lead… and it probably won’t blow any of it. Go with the Braves in 3.

Wait ’til this year?

Can anyone beat the Dodgers? Right now, the answer looks like no. The wild-card round was always going to bring potential danger as a best-of-three crapshoot, but they took care of business with a 2-0 sweep over the Milwaukee Brewers. Even a best-of-five situation is “anything can happen” kind of stuff, but L.A. has put the Padres in an unenviable position in which they now have to win three in a row. Assuming the Dodgers finish that job, series only get longer and therefore harder for an underdog to win; the Braves (or the Marlins) would have to beat L.A. four times in the span of seven games. Good luck with that!

Led by Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers (349) are the only team that scored more runs than the Braves (348). Although Clayton Kershaw has rarely been his normal self in the playoffs, he pitched 8.0 innings of shutout baseball while striking out 13 and walking just one in his wild-card start against Milwaukee. He also turned in a quality start against the Padres on Wednesday.

If Kershaw continues to be himself in support of such a powerful lineup, it is hard to see anyone beating this team–and that includes potential American League opposition, too.

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