Column: NLDS Preview 2018

Robert Soltero, 23 Sports

The MLB playoffs started off with some really good baseball. Before the NL Wild Card there were two Game 163’s played on Monday. The Milwaukee Brewers traveled to Chicago to play the Cubs to see who would win the NL Central. The Brewers won 3-1 and are heading to the playoffs for the first time since 2011. The Cubs meanwhile had to play the next day in the NL Wild Card against the loser of the Rockies-Dodgers game. The Dodgers won the game 5-2 and the Rockies had to go to Chicago to play the Cubs the next day. What many people thought was that there was a big chance the Cubs would win the Wild Card but the Rockies, viewed as underdogs, had other plans. In what was the longest postseason game in Wrigley Field history the Rockies pulled away for the win and left the entire North Side of Chicago stunned. The Cubs have never had back to back champagne celebrations in their history. As for the Rockies, they head to Milwaukee to face a hot Brewers team carried by MVP candidate Christian Yelich. The Dodgers will face the young and entertaining Atlanta Braves in the other NLDS Series. Below will be a prediction for both National League Division Series.

Let’s start off with the Rockies-Brewers series. This will be an interesting series to watch as both teams have been great during the last month or so of the season. Two potent offenses collide in this matchup as well as two great bullpens. The only weakness for both teams is the starting rotation. Not that any of these rotations are bad, but they are the weakest starting rotations of all the playoff teams this year. They were carried all season long by their offense and bullpen. This series could go either way but I think Milwaukee has the slight advantage. The Rockies have been great but they’re not going to play on their home turf again until game three on Sunday. They’ve played in three different time zones in the last three days (mountain time in Colorado, pacific time in Los Angeles and central time in Chicago) and now are headed to Milwaukee to face a tough Brewers team.

The Brewers one through nine are better than the Rockies. Of course, the Rockies might have three really good players who have been All-Stars the last few years, but I think the Brewers stand out in every position. Dealing with Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon and Trevor Story is going to be hard for Brewers pitchers but also dealing with Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich, Mike Moustakas, Jesús Aguilar, Jonathan Schoop among others is going to be hard for Rockies pitchers. I think the Brewers have better starting pitching than the Rockies just because they have more veterans in that rotation unlike the Rockies whose starting staff is in their 20s. Now to the Bullpen. It is hard to decide which Bullpen is better because these are two very great pens but I will have to stick with the Brewers Bullpen. The Rockies bullpen is great but it ran to various issues throughout the season and it went into tough stretches. Colorado is a great team, don’t get me wrong, but I think that the Brewers showed that they were the best team in the NL during the season when everything is clicking in the right cylinders.

Prediction: Brewers win in four games.

Now to the other NLDS series: Atlanta Braves vs. Los Angeles Dodgers. This will be another great series to watch. The Braves are making their first postseason appearance since 2013. They came out of nowhere this year to win the NL East. Many people expected the Nationals to win it again, but they collapsed mid-season. This team is very exciting to watch because of their pitching and their young core of players. Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuña Jr. were sensational for them this year along with captain Freddie Freeman. Don’t get me wrong, the Braves were a very good team this year, but they have to face the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers didn’t have a great beginning to the year and had people going crazy. Last season they lost to the Houston Astros in the World Series. This year were expected to be back better than ever, but that’s when the injuries started to hurt them. Justin Turner started the season on the disabled list, Clayton Kershaw still had his injury problems, and worst of all starting shortstop Corey Seager was declared out for the year as he had to get Tommy John Surgery. They came back to win their sixth straight NL West Title and got help from unlikely heroes Matt Kemp and Max Muncy along the way. They also acquired All-Star Shortstop Manny Machado at the trade deadline. Now the team looks to get back to the World Series after a game seven lost to the Astros.

I think the Braves are very good but are still too young and are very inexperienced when it comes to the position they’re in. This is LA’s series to lose. I think all around the Dodgers are the better team. I think the thing that will help the Braves the most this series is their starting rotation. Their rotation is really good, but you can say the same things for the Dodgers’ starting staff. LA’s bullpen is led by closer Kenley Jansen, who hasn’t had his best year, but the Braves have nothing in their pen similar to Jansen. The Dodgers also have starters in the bullpen which means they have the most flexibility. From the offensive stand point the Braves are really good and have a lot energy, but the Braves’ offense is simply not as good as the Dodgers. The Dodgers season record doesn’t indicate what they can do offensively. They had one of the best run differentials in the entire MLB and can score runs in bunches. The thing that really helps LA this year is the long ball, which they set a franchise record for with 235 home runs. The Dodgers win the majority of the time when they hit homers. I have nothing against the Braves, but when you’re facing a team that has players like Justin Turner, Manny Machado, Yasiel Puig, Max Muncy, Cody Bellinger and Matt Kemp offense you’re gonna have a hard time. Sorry Braves fans, but I think you got here a year too early. I’m really excited what’s to see from this franchise in the future but I really don’t think this year is your year.

Prediction: Dodgers win in three games