Having fought back from 0-2 and 1-3 deficits, the Los Angeles Dodgers are keeping their playoff hopes alive as they head to Truist Park to face the Atlanta Braves in a do-or-die game six (5:08 PM ET, Saturday; TV: Live on TBS).
In this best-of-seven, the Dodgers will need to win in order to secure yet another National League pennant. The Braves too are looking for a pennant, their first since 1999, over two decades ago. Right now, they are in the driver’s seat needing just one more win with two games left to play at home.
It’s hard to believe that the 2021 MLB season is already nearing its close. In some ways, it feels like it just started. Here we are with just four teams remaining.
Who We Are Not Who We Were
This Dodgers/Braves series has lived up to and likely shattered any and all expectations. After ousting the MLB win leader, the San Francisco Giants, the Dodgers maintained their status as World Series favorites as they entered into a series with the Braves. While the Dodgers played in one of baseball’s best divisions, the Braves arguably played in its worst as Atlanta was the only division winner to fail to win 90 games this year. On paper, the matchup seemed heavily lopsided toward the Dodgers but on the field, it was anything but.
For those who watched the end of the regular season and the Braves’ series against the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLDS, it was clear that Atlanta was hot and much better than their record suggested.
The Braves had shown to have the playoff trifecta: good starting pitching, strong bullpen, clutch hitting. The first two things on the checklist were noted in the NLDS. After Atlanta dropped game one to Milwaukee, the Braves won the next three-in-a-row (five if you include the first two in the NLCS), allowing just four runs, all of which came in the series’ final game.
In games two and three, Atlanta’s pitching was perfect with back-to-back shutouts, a rare postseason feat. The third item on the checklist, that being clutch/timely hitting led the way to open the Dodgers’ series as the Braves accomplished another rare feat by walking off the Dodgers in back-to-back games.
The Braves looked poised to take a 3-0 series lead but this time it was the Dodgers with some clutch hitting as LA came back from a 5-2 deficit by scoring four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, their pitching closing it out so a bottom ninth wasn’t needed. That was a huge, and some might even say momentum-swinging win. Well, it could have been but in game four, the Braves dropped nine runs on the Dodgers, five of which came off of starter Julio Urias, who took his first losing decision since June. The Cy Young hopeful lost just three games during the regular season while winning 20.
Throw out the 162 games and even the Brewers and Giants series that came before. This isn’t about who the Braves were in the early part of the year, struggling to find consistency after losing Ronald Acuna Jr to injury only to pick it up after a masterful trade deadline. This isn’t about who the Dodgers were either, a team that won 106 games and had their own deadline spending spree in acquiring Trea Turner and Max Scherzer to help lead them back to the playoffs. It is about how both teams are playing now, and right now, both are playing like serious world championship contenders.
Dodgers Turn to Max Scherzer In Must-Win Game Six
Let’s go back a couple sentences to that Max Scherzer trade. Locked in a heated NL West race with the Giants, the Dodgers made the splashiest deadline move when they traded for Scherzer and Turner in a mega deal. Since that trade at the end of July, Scherzer has been unstoppable. The Dodgers didn’t lose a single regular season game when he was on the mound and including the postseason, are 13-2 in games where Scherzer has started.
Much like his teammate Urias, Scherzer, prior to a loss against the Giants in the NLDS, hadn’t taken a losing decision since May, which includes his time with both LA and the Washington Nationals. In doing so, he is on the verge of history as no player has won the Cy Young Award after being traded midseason. Scherzer is in a position to become the first as he is one of the frontrunners for the title.
Right now, that’s not what he is focused on. The Dodgers are turning to him in a must-win situation and truly, there is no other choice. As good as LA’s pitching lineup is, Scherzer is the workhorse. He’s the guy who can give you seven, eight innings if need be and given his use so far in the playoffs, that might be exactly what he does on Saturday night. Scherzer hasn’t pitched deep in the postseason save for one game as in his two other starts he was pulled in the fourth. Not for lack of results either, but it’s playoff baseball and sometimes, in close games, you make calls you otherwise wouldn’t in the regular season.
Scherzer wasn’t happy about being pulled early in his most recent start against Atlanta after allowing four hits and two runs. The Dodgers ended up losing that game courtesy of a Braves’ walk-off but perhaps they wouldn’t have if Scherzer had stayed in longer. It’s not worth the what ifs but one thing is certain, if the Dodgers lose after pulling Scherzer early in game six, a lot of people will liken it to what the Tampa Bay Rays did last year in the World Series with now San Diego Padre, Blake Snell.
I’m sure the Dodgers and Dave Roberts are hoping it won’t come to that and that the bats that scored 11 runs in a game five victory will stay hot. Because if the Dodgers keep scoring, there won’t be a question of whether Scherzer stays in the game as long as he is pitching the way he did for much of his LA tenure.
Dodgers vs Braves Predictions for this Preview & Final Betting Picks Verdict
It all comes down to this. For Atlanta, the task is simple. Win and advance to the World Series for the first time in over two decades. Lose, and have a second chance to do it in game seven. For the Dodgers, there is no lose, it’s win or go home and LA certainly doesn’t want to go home.
Both the Braves and Dodgers have played well this postseason, relying on different guys and unlikely heroes at times (like the ice cold Chris Taylor hitting three home runs in game five or deadline acquisition Eddie Rosario just not stopping hitting). Point being, the Dodgers and Braves are playing a great series, one that fans deserve to see go seven games. Should it go seven, it will be because of Scherzer. Advantage LA in the pitching matchup as Ian Anderson isn’t exactly postseason tested like his opponent is. Anderson also hasn’t pitched all that great this playoff cycle.
So the picks and betting predictions for this Game 6 preview go like this:
- The American sportsbooks like the Dodgers as favorites here and that’s the direction we are going in as well. Take LA -1.5 on the spread @ -110 with Bovada, BetOnline or Intertops.
- Go over eight runs @ +100 (evens) with Intertops or BetOnline. Bovada is -105.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.