James Rowe Previews and Predicts the 2020 NLCS
There are no surprises in the 2020 NLCS matchup. The two top seeds in the NL, the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Dodgers will square off in a best of seven series for the right to go to the World Series. This should be an interesting offensive matchup that attracts lots of baseball fans hoping to see whether someone can end the Dodgers’ dominance in the league.
The Braves have a very talented core of young ballplayers which has been at the root of their success the past couple of seasons. They have won five straight games this postseason, sweeping the Cincinnati Reds in two games and NL East rival Miami Marlins in three. The Braves got hot at exactly the right time and were able to handle two very good pitching staffs. Whether they stay hot will help determine this series against Los Angeles.
There were question marks about the Braves rotation before the postseason, but those questions have been answered so far in the affirmative. Max Fried, Ian Anderson, and Kyle Wright stepped up and pitched well for Atlanta. Moreover, a first-rate bullpen led by Tyler Matzek, A.J. Minter, and Mark Melancon should serve as a bulwark should issues emerge with the starters.
The offense, though, is the key to the Braves’ success in 2020. It is led by perennial MVP candidate Freddie Freeman, who has been having a monstrous season. However, offseason acquisition Marcell Ozuna has also been putting up MVP-like numbers. The supporting cast of Ronald Acuna Jr., Dansby Swanson, and Ozzie Albies make the Braves lineup formidable.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have been here before–in 2016-18–and they know what it takes to get to the World Series. That experience will help any team in the playoffs and Los Angeles has plenty of it. But that experience is complemented by a large dose of talent and depth. That was demonstrated by their sweep of the San Diego Padres in the Division Series.
Los Angeles pitching is so deep that there are no breaks in that staff. The rotation has Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, and Dustin May leading the way, but Tony Gonsolin has been so good in 2020 that the team feels comfortable pitching him in crucial situations. The bullpen is very deep as well. Joe Kelly, Brusdar Graterol, and Blake Treinen are having phenomenal seasons as they have helped dominate other great lineups this season like San Diego’s. The only question mark is the closer role, in which Kenley Jansen has not been that effective. The Dodgers must decide on a closer, or the ninth-inning could be an adventure.
Los Angeles has a great offense as well and it can go toe-to-toe with Atlanta’s. The acquisition of Mookie Betts from the Boston Red Sox has paid great dividends as he could possibly win the MVP. Betts immensely strengthened an already effective lineup that includes Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, and a suddenly red hot Max Muncy that could be the difference-maker in this series with the Braves.
Series prediction: Los Angeles in seven.
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