The Los Angeles Dodgers won 100 games for the third year in a row and will be competing in the postseason for the 11th consecutive season. Despite winning 100, they are the second seed in the National League and will face off at home with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Snakes just dispatched the NL Central division-winning Milwaukee Brewers. They showed in both games of that series that they have a knack for coming back and are never really out of a game. Can they work their magic against the Dodgers in the final National League Division Series tonight?
NL Divisional Round: #6 Arizona Diamondbacks vs. #2 Los Angeles Dodgers
While the Braves were scoring an incredible 947 runs this season, the Dodgers weren't far behind with 906. It was the first time the Dodgers scored 900+ runs in 70 years. You would have to go back to 1953 when they were in Brooklyn to find the last time they did it when they had guys like Jackie, Duke, and Campanella. Meanwhile, Arizona backed into the playoffs losing four straight to finish the season. We know the playoffs are a different beast, but this series should be a blowout, right?
In many other seasons, Mookie Betts would be a favorite to win the NL MVP. Unfortunately for him, and to a lesser degree teammate Freddie Freeman, they play in the same league as Ronald Acuna Jr. Nevertheless, Betts is a stud. Not only because he is an offensive force, but he can play virtually anywhere on the diamond and play that position better than most. Freeman came one double away from reaching 60 which hasn't happened since 1936 and has only occurred twice in NL history (Joe Medwick and Paul Waner). He also eclipsed 200 hits for the first time in his career and stole 23 bases, another career high. Max Muncy and JD Martinez chipped in over 30 homers apiece and Jason Heyward had a renaissance with an .813 OPS, his highest in a full season since 2012.
The Diamondbacks lineup, especially its stars, seem to pale in comparison. They do have some very good hitters though. Runaway Rookie of the Year Corbin Carroll became the first rookie to go 25/50 ever. Christian Walker followed up last year with 33 homers and a career-high 103 RBIs. Ketel Marte found his power stroke as well with 25 bombs. The additions of Gabriel Moreno and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. have paid dividends also with a .747 and .772 OPS respectively.
Future Hall-of-Famer Clayton Kershaw gets Game One as he should. He had a great year as usual. However, there are some chinks in the armor. Kershaw had his highest walk rate since 2010, and he was tagged for 1.3 home runs per nine innings which is the second-highest rate of his career. The Dodgers are going with Bobby Miller in Game Two on Monday. The rookie has looked good, especially in his last four outings. Unfortunately, the Dodgers are missing a few of their best pitchers, Dustin May and Walker Buehler. They are carrying Lance Lynn, Ryan Pepiot, and Emmet Sheehan, so they have options for Game Three.
The Diamondbacks get to start their co-ace tonight. Merrill Kelly gets the nod which bodes well for Arizona. Because Game Two isn't until Monday, Zac Gallen will be on normal rest if Torey Lovullo decides to go with his other ace in Los Angeles. Brandon Pfaadt will likely get the call for Game Three. If it goes any further, the Dbacks can bring back Kelly and Gallen for four and five. The wacky schedule in the NLDS is helping Arizona pitch their best two starters four times if the series goes the distance.
The Dodgers looked like they were going to have a serious issue in their pen when they got to the end of June. At that point, their relievers were 16-16 with a 4.57 ERA. They turned it around completely since July 1st. The pen put up 22 wins and posted a minuscule 2.36 ERA. Shelby Miller, remember him? Well, he brings a 16-inning scoreless streak into the playoffs. The Dodgers are his sixth team since 2018 and it looks like he finally turned his career back around. Joe Kelly and Brusdar Graterol bring some heat in the pen as well.
Arizona may not have names that jump off the page at you, but they seem to have risen to the occasion now that they are in the postseason. In two games against the Brew Crew, the Diamondbacks pen pitched 9.1 scoreless innings while striking out 11. The Dodgers present more of a problem for them than the Brewers did. However, we know good pitching beats good hitting and Lovullo seems to be making the right moves with his relievers.
Prediction (Upset Alert)
On paper, the Dodgers look like they should rock the Diamondbacks in three, maybe four games. As the old adage goes...they don't play the games on paper. Arizona has something about them and it showed with the way they came back against the Brewers in both games. Los Angeles may have the star power, but the Snakes have the pitching lined up perfectly. Arizona in Five.
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