After a brutal back-and-forth regular season battle to win the National League West, it only made sense that the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers would meet up in one of the more memorable NL Division Series in recent years.
It was, as expected, a tough contest throughout, with both teams as evenly matched as possible. But, in the end, the Dodgers won out behind some timely hits and nearly perfect bullpen pitching, allowing Los Angeles to move onto the NL Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves.
It’s a rematch of the 2020 NLCS, which the Dodgers took in seven games after falling behind 3-1. The Braves dispatched the NL Central champs, the Milwaukee Brewers, in four games thanks to incredible pitching from both their starters and relievers. Atlanta held the Brewers to six runs over the four games, with shutouts in Games 2 and 3, en route to a series upset.
Unfortunately for the Braves, the Dodgers are going to provide substantially more offensive resistance than the Brewers did so it’ll be a difficult task for Max Fried (the Game 1 starter), Charlie Morton, Ian Anderson, and Huascar Ynoa to repeat their performances from the NLDS.
Scherzer Won’t Open Series
The Dodgers had to use Max Scherzer to close out the Giants and he won’t be ready for the opener against the Braves.
That save complicates things a bit, since Los Angeles’ entire pitching schedule revolves around who starts Game 1. Walker Buehler last started in Game 4 on short rest and would be asked to pitch on three days’ rest yet again if he got the call for Game 1, so that doesn’t seem likely either.
They are going with Corey Knebel to open the series. He is not Scherzer.
Fried Could Get Hit Hard
As the Dodgers saw first-hand in last year’s NLCS, Fried is the real deal and it’s clear that he’s already one of the best pitchers in baseball. Although he got the loss in Game 6 in 2020 (after receiving a no-decision for a stellar Game 1 start), Fried held his own against the explosive Dodgers and helped make that series such a close one. He’ll need to do the same in 2021.
Fried is coming off a strong start (six scoreless innings with nine strikeouts and no walks) in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Milwaukee Brewers and had by far his best full season as a pro in the 2021 regular season. He also pitched well against Los Angeles in two starts this year and was untouchable down the stretch in September and October.
But, the Dodgers have chewed up good starters all season and continued the trend against San Francisco Giants starters not named Logan Webb in the NLDS. They knocked Kevin Gausman and Anthony DeSclafani — both guys who had great 2021 campaigns — around and had a .800 OPS (18% better than the league average) against left-handed starters during the regular season, not to mention baseball’s fourth-most runs and sixth-highest OPS.
Los Angeles can put runs on the board, even without Max Muncy (elbow) available. Guys like Justin Turner and Trea Turner, who haven’t hit a lick so far in the postseason, will turn things around to make life even tougher for Fried and the other Braves pitchers. That’s why the MLB playoff odds favor the Dodgers. This team can’t be held down for long. In terms of MLB picks, LA and Scherzer are the way to go.