After the ALCS started yesterday, today the National League kicks off the NLCS which features two teams who are no strangers to this stage in the postseason (8.08pm ET, Monday). The first team to book their trip to the NLCS was the Atlanta Braves, who are returning to the championship series for the first time in nearly 20 years. The Los Angeles Dodgers will be making their third NLCS appearance in four years having previously won the series in both 2017 and 2018.
This NLCS preview will look back at how each team got here before making our Atlanta Braves vs Los Angeles Dodgers predictions and final betting picks for this MLB game 1 and series.
Road to the LCS – Atlanta Braves
For the past several years, the Atlanta Braves have been the class of the NL East, winning the divisional title in each of the last three seasons. This after not having previously won the East at all, in the six years prior. For all of the success the Braves have had in their own division, that had not translated to the playoffs. The team, which won five NL pennants in the 90s, had failed to advance out of the divisional round of the playoffs in their last nine postseason appearances. That all changed in 2020.
After a regular season that saw the Braves demolish their divisional opponents and more than hold their own against the AL East, which sent three teams to the playoffs, Atlanta finished with the second seed. This meant a matchup with the Cincinnati Reds. For the Braves, this was a series dominated by the team’s young pitching as Atlanta didn’t allow a single run to their opponents in the two-game sweep.
The win set up an NLDS where the Braves took on their NL East foes, the Miami Marlins. Once again, pitching told the story. Aside from game two, where Atlanta broke off to score nine runs, their most of the postseason, the Braves blanked the Marlins in their three-game sweep. In all, the Braves have played five games this year, winning them all and only allowing their opponents to score in one of them. No team has ever opened the playoffs with as many shut outs as the Braves.
Road to the LCS – Los Angeles Dodgers
Thanks to the acquisition of Mookie Betts before the 2020 season began, the LA Dodgers were head and shoulders the favorites with the offshore sports gambling sites for U.S. players in the NL to win the pennant and advance to the World Series. Their odds were tied with the New York Yankees as most likely to win the title as well. While the Yankees’ own championship dreams ended shockingly early to the Rays in the ALDS, the Dodgers are still alive and holding entirely to form.
LA breezed through their regular season slate of games with barely an issue, winning more of their 60 games than any other team. They easily finished as the NL’s best team, winning their eighth consecutive NL West title and earning the top seed in the 2020 postseason.
The wild card round was as mismatched as they come. The eighth seeded Milwaukee Brewers, the last team in, faced the first seeded Dodgers, the first team to secure their playoff spot. Much like in the regular season, LA’s top two arms got the job done in fine fashion as Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw combined to allow just two runs while the offense scored seven. It wasn’t quite the offensive outburst the team was used to in the regular season. That would come in the next series however, as the Dodgers faced their divisional rival, San Diego Padres in the NLCS. Scoring 23 runs over the three-game sweep, LA once again made quick work of the Padres, a team fast nipping on their heels to overtake them as the best in the West. That year wasn’t 2020 though as once again, the Dodgers are back in the NLCS.
Game One Braves vs LA Dodgers Matchup Predictions & Keys to Series
Due to the way the MLB structured their 2020 schedule, the Braves and Dodgers have yet to meet in the regular season. That should favor the Dodgers as this will be Max Fried’s first time facing off against this lethal lineup. Fried will take the ball in game one for Atlanta after having nothing short of a great year for the Braves.
With other key starters injured early on, Fried stepped up as the team’s ace and filled the role tremendously. In the postseason, he continued his strong year and now stands as one of the sportsbooks’ favorites to win the NL Cy Young. Fried will have the tough task of keeping LA’s bats quiet, something very few pitchers have managed. He’ll also be tasked with winning a tough matchup against LA’s own stellar young arm, Walker Buehler.
Leading LA’s postseason rotation, Buehler has looked great so far, continuing what had already been a great regular season. The Braves certainly have their fair share of guys who can hit, but Buehler is coming off a series where he kept the likes of Wil Myers, Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. at bay. He is no stranger to facing top bats this playoffs so there is certainly an advantage there. With the Dodgers having future Hall of Fame pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, waiting in the wings for game two, Fried may press, feeling like he has to get game one for his team.
This series will likely come down to who can do the little things right and who can get those timely hits as well as strong pitching performances. It may sound like an over-simplification but these teams are close in talent and this series should display that. Expect a close, likely back-and-forth series, between these two NL powerhouses. So these are the Atlanta Braves vs LA Dodgers predictions for this preview: