Braves to face Phillies and Dodgers will take on Padres in the National League Division Series
The NLDS will see two old rivals face off on the west coast, while back east will feature teams who haven’t met in the post season in three decades.
The Los Angeles Dodgers ran through the season like their hair was on fire. They jumped out front early on and have shown very few wobbles throughout the season, being the first team to win 100 games and finishing the season with the best record in baseball.
From the earliest part of the season, there was talk around LA of a Dodgers-Giants or Dodgers-Padres playoff. Nobody seriously considered the Angels, and with good reason as it turns out, but as for the other California-based teams, Dodger fans could only say “bring it on!”
Elsewhere in the country, not many were so sure that a California ALDS game was on the cards, with the Mets and Braves picked as the two likely candidates to face the Dodgers. But a late September run by the Braves and a corresponding collapse by the Mets have brought us to the place that the Chavez Ravine faithful have so long predicted.
Something that the Dodgers will be all too aware of is that the playoffs are unforgiving. It matters not a jot that you have more regular season wins, or that your roster is stronger, if you lose three games, you are done. The Padres are not as strong as the Dodgers on paper, true. But they will be expending all of their remaining ammunition on the Dodger Stadium field. And their arsenal is not to be underestimated.
Joe Musgrove shut the Mets down and although he should not be ready for a few days, at this point in the season, the Padres could bring him back on short rest should they get in trouble. In the meantime, they will have a serious combo with Yu Darvish and Blake Snell providing all the heavy lifting, with Mike Clevinger slated to start Game 1.
With the bats, they have some formidable firepower in Austin Nola, Trent Grisham, Manny Machado, and of course Juan Soto. Although he has not yet set the division on fire in the way that the Padres may have hoped, it would be a mistake to write him off. His bat could come alive at the right moment and tilt the balance of power definitively.
Over on the east coast, the defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves will meet the Philadelphia Phillies for the first time in the post season since 1993. The Phillies got here by mounting an unlikely sweep of the St Louis Cardinals and while their pitching rotation is solid, they have leant heavily on the long ball, with the third-highest home run rate in baseball.
They will need Bryce Harper to heat up in order to stay in with a chance against Atlanta, who have perhaps the deepest and most balanced bullpen in baseball. With Kyle Schwarber in the lineup as well, the Phillies need to have a few big shots to get on the scoreboard quickly and often.
While Atlanta seemed to come in out of nowhere last year, winning the World Series in a sequence of shock wins, it would seem that nobody has learned from that, consistently under estimating the Braves through the season and beyond. If the Phillies do the same, then they could be in for a rude awakening.
Atlanta are one of the strongest teams in the league, and the only true challenge to the Dodgers for the National League pennant, but they have their weaknesses. Their pitching is outstanding but some of the bats that they have relied on went ice cold in September, but their rotation kept them on the course.
With Max Fried slated to start Game 1, the Braves are going to have to tighten up all of their laces, and if they do that, there is no team in baseball that can beat them.