2021 NLDS Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers against the San Francisco Giants

The MLB postseason is here, which means it’s time for our 2021 NLDS preview featuring the one-seeded San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers from the Wild Card game. We’ll look at how each team got here, as well as pitching matchups and impact players. Finally, we’ll make our predictions.

2021 NLDS preview
(image from Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

How They Got Here: Dodgers

Wow. What an absolutely electric WIld Card win. Chris Taylor sent Dodger Stadium into a frenzy Wednesday night when he sent a shot over the left field fence to walk off the St. Louis Cardinals 3-1 in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Dodgers deserve to be here way more than the Cardinals (shoutout to their awesome September to get here), however. The Dodgers won 106 games in 2021. The defending champs already had a stacked roster, and then they decided to trade for superstars Max Scherzer and Trea Turner from the Washington Nationals at the deadline. Scherzer will finish in the top-3 at least for the National League Cy Young Award, and Turner won the MLB batting title. 

The incredible underlying stat for the Dodgers is that they have gone 50-21 since the All-Star break but made up just one game on the Giants in that stretch, despite finishing the season with a +269 run differential. I don’t think you need me to tell you how absurd that stat is. The Dodgers beat teams by staying patient and not missing their pitch at the plate. They hit 237 homers and walked 613 times as a team – number three and one in the NL, respectively. As an injury concern, first baseman Max Muncy is recovering from a dislocated elbow suffered in the final series of the regular season, so his timetable to return is unclear.

2021 NLDS preview
(image fromKarl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

How They Got Here: Giants

The Giants have been the best team in Major League Baseball all year. They spent 151 straight days in first place in the NL West, staving off the Dodgers by one game in the final few weeks to stay on top. They never lost more than 10 games in a month for the entire year. Gabe Kapler is going to win NL manager of the year, and it should not be close.

This Giants team does not look like a contender on paper. Most of their core is on the wrong side of 30, but all seem to be having career revivals all at the same time. San Francisco also went out and acquired former MVP, Kris Bryant, from the Cubs in a last-second trade at the deadline. He’s been okay – slashing .262/.344/.444 with seven home runs in 51 games with his new team. This squad has won games mainly on the back of their bullpen. As a unit, San Francisco’s bullpen finished with MLB-bests 2.99 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 56 saves. Unfortunately, it looks they will miss first baseman Brandon Belt and his 29 homers because of a thumb injury.

Pitching Matchups, Impact Players, & Prediction

This series is set to be absolutely incredible. Game one will feature two righties – Walker Buehler and Logan Webb. Everyone expected a great season from Buehler, and he delivered with a 16-4 record, 2.47 ERA, and 212 strikeouts in 33 starts. Buehler was voted to his second All-Star game, and he’s been elite from the start of the season to finish. Webb, however (and like much of the Giants 2021 roster), has been a pleasant surprise. Can you believe he had a 5.36 ERA in 21 appearances for his career before this year? I can’t, especially when I see his 11-3 record and 3.03 ERA in 27 games this season. Here’s something to look for: Webb hasn’t lost a start at home this year – he went 6-0 with a 1.96 ERA in 12 starts at Oracle Park.

Game two will feature 20-win Julio Urias and Kevin Gausman. Both are National League Cy Young candidates. Here’s a ridiculous stat: Urias hasn’t lost a game since June! Starters for games three, four, and five have yet to be announced, but we’ll most likely see the great Max Scherzer for Los Angeles in game three. Alex Wood and Anthony DeSclafani would be on the table for San Francisco. Odds are we’ll see every arm for each team in this series, minus Clayton Kershaw for the Dodgers because of an elbow injury. There’s almost no way these teams don’t go the full five games.

Impact Players for the Giants: C Buster Posey (.304 BA, .889 OPS), SS Brandon Crawford (.298/.373/.522, 24 HR, 90 RBI), UTIL Darin Ruf (.271/.385/.519), RP Tyler Rogers (80 games, 7-1 record, 2.22 ERA)

Impact Players for the Dodgers: SS Corey Seager (.306/.394/.521 with a .915 OPS), 2B Trea Turner (.328/.375/.588, 32 SB, 34 doubles), LF A.J. Pollock (.297 BA, 21 HR, 137 OPS+), SP Max Scherzer (2.46 ERA, 236 strikeouts, 179.1 innings pitched, 0.864 WHIP), RP Blake Treinen (72 games, 85 strikeouts, 1.99 ERA, 206 ERA+)

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

Ryan: This is by far the hardest series to predict. It’s baseball’s two best teams, so this really should be the World Series. Instead, they’re playing in a best-of-five. I’m going with San Francisco in five. I’m fully expecting this to come down to a situation where the Dodgers have the tying run in scoring position but the Giants bullpen comes through once again. San Francisco won the series 10-9 and went 31-17 in one-run games this year, while the Dodgers went 24-24 in such games. The Dodgers have the better roster on paper, but I have to give the edge to the team that has been the best all year. I wouldn’t be surprised with either outcome.

Evan: – Giants in five. The series we’ve all been waiting patiently for. After Chris Taylor walked it off in the Wild Card Game, the 106 win Dodgers face off against the 107 win Giants. This is going to be an absolute dogfight, but it’s evident the Giants have some magic to their team. The Dodgers and Giants are the clear two best teams in the playoffs, but I think the Giants have the edge here. The pitching matchups are awesome, but I think San Francisco’s timely hitting will be the difference. Scoring runs when it matters was their mantra all year, and I don’t see them not rising to the occasion once again. 

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We hope you enjoyed our 2021 NLDS preview! Read another 2021 NLDS preview here, this one between the Milwaukee Brewers and Atlanta Braves.