The National League Championship Series (NLCS) involves, naturally, two of the best teams in baseball — the Milwaukee Brewers and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
It’s a must-watch NLCS because, for one, the two teams are playing some of their best baseball right now. The Brewers, who are on an 11-game win streak, are playing for their first chance at a World Series title since 1982. Meanwhile, the Dodgers are propelled by a great pitching staff and players like Manny Machado. Their last title, though? It came back in 1988.
Now, it seems far-off to predict either team to sweep. It’s more likely that the series will run the full seven games. The Dodgers are heavily favored, but that doesn’t mean the Brewers aren’t prepared to take on the role of the underdog. That’s essentially who they are.
Brewers’ veteran outfielder, Ryan Braun, alluded that his team is prepared to go the distance — despite what pundits or baseball fans choose to believe.
“Nobody picked us to win the division,” Braun said via ESPN. “Nobody expected us to get to the NLCS. I’m sure when we get there, nobody will pick us to win. But we believe in each other and we’re playing our best baseball when it matters most.”
And so are the Dodgers.
“Nobody ever really remembers second place and says, ‘Oh, we went to the World Series,’ or whatever,” Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp told Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times. “They want you to win.”
So far, it’s a toss-up.
The Dodgers, though, have the biggest advantage through starting pitching. Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is coming off a stellar performance against the Braves in the NLDS. In arguably his best postseason start to date, he threw eight scoreless innings while allowing only two hits. He’ll start for the Dodgers in Game 1, where he’ll presumably do similar damage to the Brewers lineup. Hyun-Jin Ryu and Walker Buehler will follow in Game 2 and 3, respectively.
Dodgers pitching seems to be solid through Game 4, whereas the Brewers have a more contrasting approach. In the NLDS, the Brewers did not rely heavily on their starting pitching. Their starters threw a combined 12 2/3 innings in three games . But they did not allow a run.
Milwaukee’s starting pitching isn’t comparable to the Dodgers, but their bullpen has been quite good. Only one of the six — Jeremy Jeffress — allowed any runs in the NLDS. The bullpen went on to collect a 0.98 ERA and 0.65 WHIP. Even the team’s NLDS Game 1 strategy of “bullpenning” would work out. Gio Gonzalez will matchup against Kershaw in Game 1. Then Wade Miley and Jhoulys Chacín will follow in Games 2 and 3, respectively.
The Dodgers make their third straight appearance to the NLCS. Meanwhile, the Brewers are returning for the first time since 2011. Los Angeles took the season series (4-3) and outscored the Brewers 48-25. But Milwaukee finished the regular season with the best record (96-67) in the NL.
NL MVP-favorite Christian Yelich carried his team through the second-half of the season to home-field advantage in Miller Park. He hit .367 with 25 home runs and 67 RBIs — these monster stats come from the 65 games post-All Star break. Yelich, in his first postseason appearance, got a home run in Game 1 of the series against the Rockies then took a lot of walks. He’s due for a home run or two….
So it will be a showdown between two the of the NL’s best. An unlikely contender and a(n almost) yearly favorite. Both teams would need a Game 163 tiebreaker to determine the pennant race. Both teams are vying to make it one step closer to glory — the Brewers for the first time ever. A team that loves the long-ball (Dodgers) and a team with dominant relievers (Brewers).
L.A. might be heavy favorites, but don’t overlook the Brewers.
The best-of-seven series begins Friday night in Milwaukee at 8:00 p.m. EST on FS1.