2021 NLCS Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers against the Atlanta Braves

Welcome to Vendetta’s 2021 NLCS preview! This year’s NLCS will be a rematch of 2020’s. The Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers will meet again, only this time they won’t be playing at a neutral site in Arlington, Texas. Atlanta is hungry for revenge, and Los Angeles wants to prove that they are still the best team in baseball. The Braves have overcome all of the odds this season. They showed America that if you are active at the trade deadline, you will likely see different results. The Dodgers were just as busy at the deadline, but instead of targeting role players, they went out and acquired two MVP candidates. Eighteen wins separated these teams in the regular season, but we all know that none of any of that matters once you get to this stage. Who will come out on top this year?

2021 NLCS preview
(image from Brynn Anderson/Associated Press)

How They Got to the NLCS: Atlanta Braves

The Atlanta Braves have made the postseason four years in a row, but last year was the first time they made it to the NLCS since 2001. This year, Atlanta took out the Milwaukee Brewers in just four games (It was the only prediction I nailed out of our four Division Series previews). After falling behind 1-0 from a 2-1 thrilling loss in Milwaukee, the Braves rattled off three straight wins – one being a four-man effort in a game two shutout. Max Fried looked especially sharp that day, as he struck out nine batters and walked zero in six innings of work. They won the two games in Atlanta 3-0 and 5-4 to send the Brewers home for good. 

2021 NLCS preview
(image from Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports)

How They Got to the NLCS: Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers just played the Giants in one of the greatest heavyweight matches in baseball history. Unfortunately for baseball fans, that series was only a best of five, and the Dodgers used some late-inning heroics to steal a series win in San Francisco. Los Angeles is, and has been, one of the two best teams in the league all season long. I was fine with either of the two winning that series, because I know that I get to watch an incredible baseball team for at least a handful more games.

The Dodgers offense struggled and was blanked by Logan Webb in game one, but they bounced back and put up nine in game two. Again, in game three, they were shutout and lost 1-0. But, of course, they came back and put up seven in game four. Game five was one of the greatest baseball games I have ever witnessed, and Cody Bellinger – who hit just .165 during the regular season – came through in the top of the ninth with an RBI single to seal a 2-1 victory.

2021 NLCS Preview: Pitching Matchups & Impact Players

Max Fried will get the ball again for the Braves in game one. The Braves have not played since Tuesday, so it looks like every arm is going to be on a good amount of rest. I Anderson will pitch game two, and I suspect Charlie Morton will go in game three. Atlanta used Morton on just three days of rest for game four, but he only went 3.2 innings and threw 69 pitches. After that, who knows? That’s the beauty of postseason baseball. You never truly know which arm the manager will send out there to start. Still, Atlanta has shown that they are willing to use their three best starters on shorter rest.

Take the Dodgers, for instance. In game five of the NLDS, the Dodgers used six different pitchers – two of them starters, yet neither of them threw the first pitch of the game. Max Scherzer was called on for the ninth to record his first career save. The Dodgers opened with Corey Knebel last game, and it looks like they will do the same for game one of the NLCS. I would think Scherzer would get the ball for game two, though it is still undetermined which direction manager Dave Roberts will go. Scherzer hasn’t started a game since Monday, and threw just 13 pitches in his one-inning save on Thursday. Walker Buehler and Julio Urias will also be in the mix to start this series and will probably go in games three and four, respectively.

Impact Players for the Braves (Playoff Stats): RF Joc Pederson (3-7, 2 HR, 5 RBI), 3B Austin Riley (5-15, 1 HR, 3 R), 1B Freddie Freeman (4-13, 1 HR, .471 OBP), RP Tyler Matzek (4.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, 6 K), CP Will Smith (3.0 IP, 3/3 S, 0.00 ERA, 3 K)

Impact Players for the Dodgers (Playoff Stats): RF Mookie Betts (11-24, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 SB), CF Cody Bellinger (5-17, 3 RBI, 3 SB, .368 OBP), C Will Smith (6-21, 2 HR, 3 RBI, .400 OBP), CP Kenley Jansen (3.0 IP, 2-0, 0.00 ERA, 8 K), RP Brusdar Graterol (4.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 3 K), SP Max Scherzer (12.1 IP, 1.46 ERA, 16 K, 1 S)

Evan Kinsey and I are tag-teaming these MLB postseason series previews. Here are each of our picks:

Evan: The song remains the same as last year for this year’s NLCS. The Dodgers defeated the Braves last year, but I feel that series is often overlooked because of it occurring during the pandemic. This was an electric series. Seven games in which Atlanta saw themselves up 3-1 in the series at one point. I think this series should be just as good as last years. The Braves slugged their way past the Brewers along with good starting pitching and bullpen relief. I think people are heavily sleeping on Atlanta in this series. Their bats can keep them in any series. Although, it seems to be LA’s year, especially after they knocked off San Fran. I’m going Dodgers in six.

Ryan: This series is tough to predict, but I have to lean Los Angeles. Despite Atlanta having home-field advantage, the Dodgers have shown that they can win on the road this postseason. The Braves are going to win a couple of games on the backs of their pitchers, but I can’t see them winning four before the Dodgers. I think Trea Turner plays a huge role in this series and proves he’s the best player on the field every game. Los Angeles in six.

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