Expert MLB NLCS Series Picks: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Milwaukee Brewers
The Dodgers typically have one of the highest payrolls in Major League Baseball. Yet they haven't won a World Series since 1988. Yasiel Puig thinks that's going to change this season, as he boldly predicted that the Dodgers will in fact win the World Series this year. After taking care of the Atlanta Braves, the Dodgers are one step closer to getting back to the Fall Classic. However, standing in their way is a Milwaukee Brewers team that seems to be a team of destiny. The Brewers finished with the best record in the National League and showed the world why as they swept away the Colorado Rockies in the NLDS.
As of writing this, the Dodgers are favorites to win the pennant at -160. This isn't all that surprising considering they are trying to get back to the World Series for the second year in a row. The Brewers, despite having home-field advantage, check in at +140.
In terms of past playoff encounters, the Dodgers and Brewers have not met in the postseason before. However, during the regular season, the Dodgers took 4 of 7 games from the Brewers, including the last two games by a combined score of 27-9.
The Dodgers pitching rotation has been solid all year long, led once again by Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw led the team in innings pitched at 161.1 and was second on the team in ERA at 2.73. However, the Dodgers made a brave call by starting Hyun-Jin Ryu in Game 1, and boy did he deliver. Ryu tossed seven innings of shutout ball en route to a 6-0. Kershaw followed up with an eight-inning, two-hit effort in Game 2, which led to a 3-0 win. Outside of these two guys, Rich Hill struggled with command (five walks in Game 4), and Wade Buehler gave up five runs in five innings of Game 3. If the Dodgers can't rectify that situation and count on the back end of the rotation against a Brewers squad that has power up and down the lineup, the Dodgers could be looking at another disappointing ending to a promising season.
The Brewers pitching rotation is another unit that has been undervalued all year long. Based on stats alone, the ace of the rotation is Jhoulys Chacin. Chacin posted a very respectable 15-8 record with a 3.50 ERA in 192.2 innings of work. He carried that play into the postseason and was stellar in Game 2, tossing five innings of three-hit ball in a 4-0 win. Behind him, Wade Miley pitched four scoreless innings in Game 3 en route to a 6-0 series-clinching win, while Brandon Woodruff was perfect through three innings in the series opener. It'll be interesting to see how the Brewers set up their rotation for this series as guys like Freddy Peralta and Gio Gonzalez were on the NLDS roster but did not see any live-game action. Maybe a rested backend could be to the Brewers benefit. However, against a tough lineup like the Dodgers, there are no easy outs.
The Dodgers lineup is chock full of household names, including the recently-acquired Manny Machado. Machado led the team in batting average this year at .297 despite playing the majority of games on a bad Baltimore club. He also hit 37 dingers to lead the team and drove in 107 runs, which is most on the team by 20+. However, the Dodgers depth has been a major reason why they are in this position. Guys like Joc Pederson, Kike Hernandez, and David Freese have all stepped up to the plate at key times and delivered the goods in the clutch. If the Dodgers are going win this series, they are going to need all the secondary production they can get because the Brewers bullpen is solid and was one of the best units in the Majors since the start of September. A Dodgers series win would likely indicate a higher-scoring series, so the onus is on the Dodgers to produce.
On the other hand, the Brewers lineup is chock full of experience with guys like Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas and Curtis Granderson. However, it will be up to Christian Yelich to lead the way offensively this series once again. Yelich was a key contributor in the NLDS, scoring four runs and driving in two while walking six times in three games. He is so good right now that pitchers were pitching around him just to get to other guys in the lineup. And to be completely honest, that strategy didn't work. Guys like Moustakas, Cain, Braun and Shaw all stepped up big time in order to sweep away the Rockies. The Brewers will also need to continue hitting the long ball this series if they want to give themselves the best shot at advancing.
Who Has the Edge
It's tough to determine who has the edge in this matchup because both teams are so different. The Dodgers have the pedigree and the big-name players, while the Brewers' success is more team based. The starting pitchers favor the Dodgers, while the bullpen favors the Brewers. The batting lineup favors the Dodgers, but the Brewers are one of the best at generating runs. It's almost too close to call. But given the odds and how each team has gotten to this point, I believe there is value with taking the Brewers at +140. Very rarely do you get a home underdog in a playoff series, but this year we have two. One of them is going to win, and I believe the Brewers are in the better spot to do so.
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