We’ve finally made it to the 2020 League Championship Series. The Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers are ready for Game 1 in Arlington, Texas.
Hot off the heels of their sweeps of the Cincinnati Reds and Miami Marlins, the Braves enter at +145 on the moneyline to win the NLCS. Meanwhile, the Dodgers, who also swept their way through the Milwaukee Brewers and San Diego Padres, are favorites at -177.
Game 1 in the best-of-seven series will be played Monday night. The first pitch will be at 8:08 pm ET on FOX.
Max Fried and Walker Buehler are the probable starters. Atlanta is +128 on the moneyline for Game 1, while the Dodgers are -138.
What to Know – Atlanta Braves
Atlanta’s pitching has been nothing but dominant throughout the playoffs. The Braves have held opponents scoreless in four of their five playoff games.
Ian Anderson has been lights-out on the mound, giving up just five hits and striking out 17 batters in 11.2 innings. As a staff, they’ve struck out 59 batters in 49 innings, against 30 hits and five earned runs in five games.
The bullpen has been equally impressive, allowing ten hits, four walks, and one earned run in 20.1 innings. Will Smith and Mark Melancon have done most of the heavy lifting in relief efforts. Smith earned the win in Game 1 against Miami, while Melancon recorded the save in Game 2.
Travis d’Arnaud is playing the best baseball of his life. The catcher leads all Braves batters in batting average (.421), RBI (seven), hits (eight), on-base percentage (.500), and home runs (two).
How far ahead is in the batting average race for the Braves? The next closest Atlanta hitter, Ronald Acuña Jr., is almost 140 points behind.
Atlanta’s hitters will need to be at their best against an equally dominant Dodgers pitching staff. Freddie Freeman was a .341 hitter in the regular season but is batting a woeful .167 in the playoffs.
Marcell Ozuna was the best designated-hitter in National League history (it’s one year, but still), hitting .338 with 18 home runs. While his batting average has dipped to .227, Ozuna has still managed five RBI through five games.
What to Know – Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers were the cream of the crop in the regular season. They ran away with the National League, posting an incredible 43-17 record while leading the league in runs (349), home runs (118), and ERA (3.02). Opposing teams batted .213 against L.A.’s deep pitching staff.
Pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler are as elite of a 1-2 punch on the mound as it gets. The two have combined for 35 strikeouts in 22 innings, though Buehler has struggled with command at times, walking six batters in eight innings.
Julio Urias baffles opponents out of the bullpen, with 11 strikeouts to his credit. Flamethrower Brusdar Graterol averages just over 99 miles per hour on his fastball.
Mookie Betts looks to be worth every penny so far in the playoffs. The Dodgers acquired Betts from the Boston Red Sox before the 2020 season and inked a $365 million, 12-year contract extension with the star center fielder in July. Betts leads the Dodgers in hits (seven), doubles (five), and batting average (.368) in the playoffs.
For the Dodgers to win the NLCS and advance to the World Series, the message is simple: keep it rolling. L.A. has lost three games in the last month, going 16-3 since September 12. They’ve been the best team in baseball all season and should continue to prove it against the Braves.
Series Prediction: Dodgers in Six
The Braves and Dodgers have not played each other in 2020. While both clubs have great hitters and excellent pitchers, the Dodgers have a slight edge in both regards. The Braves will make it a competitive series, but they’re simply overmatched against a Dodgers club hellbent on justice and revenge following the 2017 World Series cheating scandal.
Depending on what the Houston Astros do, justice may be served against the team who cheated to beat L.A. for a title, but the Dodgers can’t get ahead of themselves.
Series Pick: Dodgers (-177)
Game 1 Pick: Braves (+128)