The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres both defeated NL Central opponents and will now face off in the NLDS. Los Angeles swept the Milwaukee Brewers behind strong pitching, allowing only two runs in two games. The Padres lost the opener against the St. Louis Cardinals but surged back behind their powerful offense and sturdy bullpen to win the next two and take the series. This will be the first time the division rivals meet in the postseason.
The Dodgers’ offense was among the best in the regular season, but they didn’t need much of it in the NLWC. They pulled off the sweep despite scoring only seven runs in two games, well below their season average. In Game One, two doubles by Mookie Betts, a Corey Seager home run, and six total walks provided the run support. Then in Game Two, Betts doubled in two runs to crack Brandon Woodruff in the fifth inning, leading to a 3-0 win. The Dodgers will be happy with the results, but they expect a higher overall level of production in the division series.
The Padres’ offense scored the most runs (19) of any NL team last week, highlighted by the 11-9 slugfest in which they hit five home runs, all after the fifth inning. MVP candidate Fernando Tatis Jr. continued to lead the San Diego offense, going 5-10 with two home runs. Manny Machado, Wil Myers, and Tommy Pham are also important pieces in a lineup ranked by MLB.com as the best in any division series. With two of the best offenses in baseball, this series should be exciting and entertaining.
— MLB (@MLB) October 4, 2020
Walker Buehler is still dealing with a blister issue, but other than that, the Los Angeles pitching staff is firing on all cylinders. Julio Urias, Blake Treinen, and Kenley Jansen relieved Buehler in Game One of the NLWC and shut down the Brewers’ offense. Then Clayton Kershaw pitched possibly the best postseason game of his career, striking out 13 in eight innings to seal the series in Game Two. The Dodgers’ pitchers should be fully rested and prepared for the Padres’ hitters. Buehler, once again, will started Game One, followed by Kershaw. After that, we could see Urias, Tony Gonsolin, or Dustin May get the start.
The Padres are hoping that Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet, their two best starters, will be available this series after missing the NLWC with arm injuries. Zach Davies and Chris Paddack had rough starts against St. Louis last week, so any reinforcement would be welcome. The relievers, on the other hand, have formed one of the best units in baseball behind guys like Drew Pomeranz, Emilio Pagan, and Trevor Rosenthal. San Diego’s bullpen will need to continue its record-setting dominance to hold the Los Angeles offense in check. If the Padres’ pitching staff shows any sign of fatigue, the Dodgers will be looking to take advantage early in the series.
What to Watch For
How L.A. Deals with Tatis Jr.
Fernando Tatis Jr. was a force to be reckoned with this year, hitting .277/.366/.571 with 17 home runs. His hitting has been electric and contagious this year, as the Cardinals witnessed last week. Tatis Jr. has a career batting average of .200 (10-50) against the Dodgers, and keeping him quiet may be key for the Dodgers’ pitching staff. Interestingly enough, Tatis Jr. and Dustin May have already faced off 12 times in their young careers, with May striking him out four times and allowing only one hit.
Resuming a 10-game Saga
The Dodgers won six of the ten games in a season series that was wildly entertaining. Among the highlights were multiple home plate collisions, a game ending outfield assist by Chris Taylor, and a three-home-run game by Mookie Betts. Most recently, Trent Grisham’s boisterous bat flip angered the Dodgers’ dugout and fueled tensions between the clubs. As we’ve seen all season, the best two teams in the NL have a flare for the dramatic, specifically when going head-to-head.
Trade Deadline Tactics
On the July 31st trade deadline, the Dodgers and Padres took very different approaches. Los Angeles held tight, making virtually no moves except trading away pitcher Ross Stripling. The Padres, on the other hand, landed several impact players, most notably pitcher Mike Clevinger. Clevinger, having gone 2-1 with a 2.84 ERA in four starts since the trade, is still questionable with an arm injury. San Diego also reeled in relievers Trevor Rosenthal and Dan Altavilla, catchers Jason Castro and Austin Nola, and first baseman Mitch Moreland. If San Diego’s deadline pickups contribute to a series win, it will raise questions about the Dodgers’ patience.
Role Players Making an Impact
Both of these teams are incredibly deep, both offensively and with their pitching, so the superstars won’t be the only difference-makers. Perhaps rookie Jake Cronenworth will deliver a key home run like he did on Friday. Or maybe Chris Taylor will spark the offense with a key single like the one against Brandon Woodruff on Thursday. Maybe Padres’ reliever Pierce Johnson will continue his breakout season and come up big in a high-leverage situation. Maybe one of the Dodgers’ youngsters, May or Gonsolin, will shut down the Padres’ potent offense in their first postseason start. Despite the undeniable presence of stars, this series may be won by the role players.
As the teams gear up for a Texas showdown, all of Southern California eagerly awaits. Game One is scheduled for Tuesday night at 6:30pm Pacific from Globe Life Field in Arlington.
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