The games themselves offer plenty of intrigue and our esteemed MLB analysts attempt to BRK it DWN for you and give our picks for who we think will make it out alive.
Cardinals @ Braves – October 3, 2019 – TBS
Brendan → Braves
This series looks great on paper. The Braves have definitely been a top team in the NL for most of the season, but have since been hit with some injuries to key players like Acuna, Freeman, and Inciarte — the latter of which is slated to miss the NLDS. Brian Snitiker mentioned that Freeman should be ready to go, but if I’m the Braves I’m concerned about Acuna’s injury to his groin and hip. The Cardinals on the other hand are on a tear coming into the playoffs, but after having a few days off it’s fair to wonder if the layoff has had any effect on their ability to keep their hot streak going.
The pitching matchups for both teams are fairly even, but I’ll give the edge to the Braves in this. Yes, St. Louis has Jack Flaherty who may be the best pitcher coming into the postseason, but he is not battle-tested and furthermore, he will not be taking the bump in the first game. The Braves are led by postseason veteran, Dallas Keuchel and have options behind him like Soroka, Fried, and even Teheran should they need him. In a five game series, I like Keuchel to set the tone for the rest of the series. The Braves also were able to shore up their bullpen with the additions of Mark Melancon and Shane Greene providing stability to what was the biggest question mark for most of the season.
A key stat to look at: The Braves were 50-31 at hitter-friendly SunTrust Park in 2019 and took four of six from the Cardinals in the season series. St. Louis was a modest 40-39 on the road this year and went 6-13 in games following at least one day off. Setting the tone at home, I like Atlanta.
I’ll take the Braves in 4.
Joe → Braves
An extremely good matchup to kick off the MLB postseason. The Braves have been one of the best teams in the NL all season long and the addition of Dallas Keuchel before the all-star game boosted their starting rotation. However, the Braves are not the healthiest squad heading into Game 1 as they have Acuna Jr. and Freeman banged up. The resurgence of Josh Donaldson this season adds an X-factor to the Braves lineup for this series and possibly beyond.
On the Cardinals side, they are coming in red hot to the Postseason and have one of the best pitchers heading into the series with Jack Flaherty. The Cardinals lineup is not as dangerous as the Braves in my opinion, but they have been getting the job all season long. The rotation matchup is extremely even, a coin flip in pitching can decide the series for me.
If the pitching is as even as I think it will be, it will come down to the lineup and the bullpen that both teams come with. The Braves had some solid additions to the bullpen in Shane Green and Mark Melancon who have pitched very well. If Acuna Jr. and Freeman are healthy for most of the series, I give the Braves the edge to take this series.
I’ll take the Braves in 4 games.
Drake → Cardinals
No I’m not only picking them because they’re my favorite team. I think the Cardinals have a shot at beating the Braves. In terms of rotation, the Cardinals have a slight edge as Jack Flaherty has been pitching out of his mind in the second half in this season and rookie Dakota Hudson has that sinker that the home run hitting Braves will continue to swing and roll over on. Plus, if Mike Shildt plays his cards right you get one start of Adam Wainwright at home, where Wainwright has a 2.56 ERA and has an opponents batting average of .253.
The bullpens as well I give to the Cardinals as this bullpen has the most consistent in all of baseball. These last couple weeks have been overworked but when you have a rested Giovanny Gallegos (2.31 ERA and a 11.31 K/9) and Carlos Martinez (3.17 ERA and a 9.87 K/9). Plus, pitchers such as Andrew Miller (4.45 ERA and a 11.52 K/9) and the surprising Tyler Webb( 3.76 ERA and a 7.85 K/9). The only issue I have with this is the only two that have pitched in a postseason game are Andrew Miller and Carlos Martinez (excluding minors). The Braves have the better offense for sure as The comeback player of the year candidate Josh Donaldson just keeps hitting and Ronald Acuna keeps getting on base and making things happen. Plus, they have Ozzie Albies and Freddy Freeman in the middle of that order.
The Braves offense is scary but if the Cardinals rotation can get to to the back end of their bullpen each game the Cardinals surely can win this series. Plus, if Goldschmidt and Ozuna get hot and have runners in scoring position Watch Out!!
I’m thinking Cardinals in 5
Danny → Braves
I’m a firm believer that pitching wins in the postseason and the Braves the edge in my option. They also have the home field advantage in the series if it goes the distance but spoiler I don’t think it will as they will make quick work of St. Louis. Down the stretch, the Braves did the right thing and got healthy letting Acuna rest and be ready for the playoffs. When, not IF, Acuna and Albies get hot that will spell trouble for the Cardinals.
Braves in 4
Nationals @ Dodgers – October 3 – TBS
Brendan → Nationals
With the Nationals waiting until the 8th inning of the Wild Card game to form any type of rally, my pick for this series probably will not resonate with a lot of people. However, in an actual series,I like the Nationals chances of outlasting the Dodgers.
Though it’s not announced as of the time of writing, all signs point to Patrick Corbin being the game one starter for Washington and that should set them up for success early against the Dodgers. Washington’s trio of aces might present the best matchup for the Dodgers of any team they could have faced. With the Dodgers trotting out the likes of Beuhler, Kershaw, and Ryu, I like the Nationals a bit more — especially after seeing how dominant Strasburg was against Milwaukee (he only threw 34 pitches).
The bullpens will likely be the X-factor here, and while it’s easy to point to the Nationals ‘pen being their weakest link, it’s important to note that each of their starters can take them deep into games.
Offensively, the Dodgers and Nationals were first and second in the NL in run-differential, respectively, and while the drop off is substantial, it’s worth mentioning.
The Dodgers are favorites every season to make it to the World Series, and while they’ve benefitted from playing in the NL West, they playoffs have exposed the Dodgers as beatable in the past. I expect the hot team to take this series.
I’ll take the Nationals in five games.
Joe → Dodgers
After the Nationals came back in the 8th inning in the Wild Card game against the Milwaukee Brewers, they can be perceived as the hot team coming into this series. Scherzer is known for his trouble in the first inning and that problem was evident in the Wild Card game. The Nationals may be a little more cautious in starting Scherzer too early in this series and may hand the ball to Strasburg who was lights out in his relief appearance, and Patrick Corbin. The Nationals have a solid lineup that was held up for most of the night by the Brewers pitching staff until Had(t)er came in the 8th.
The Dodgers have been the class of the NL once again this season and locked and loaded to go on another World Series run. With back to back World Series appearances, the Dodgers just need to find a way to finally get over the hump. With another strong lineup, starting rotation, and bullpen; they have all the tools necessary to go on another one. Led by NL MVP candidate Cody Bellinger as well as veterans like Justin Turner solidify a deep lineup.
With the history of the Nationals choking in the NLDS, I am not confident that they are over that curse yet and will pick the Dodgers in this one.
Dodgers in 4 games.
Drake → Dodgers
Yes, the Nationals do have tons of momentum after their thrilling victory against the Brewers in the wildcard. But this offense that was iffy against the Brewers has to face Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Like I said with Shildt playing his cards right, if Roberts plays his correctly he has Buehler at home where he has a 2.86 ERA with a measly .208 Opponents batting average and Ryu after him who has a 1.93 ERA and a .214 Opponents batting average. They could already have a two-game lead in the Divisional series. But, the Nationals do have one of the best rotations in baseball so it should be a fun series to watch.
The bullpens of both these teams are below average but the edge goes to the Dodgers as well as they have a better built bullpen with Kenly Jansen as their closer and guys like Joe Kelly, Kenta Maeda and rookie Dustin May who really has shown the stuff to stay on the playoff roster.
The Dodgers offense is also better as they have the perfect combination of on-base guys and power guys. As Cody Bellinger has cooled off but has made a statement regarding his power this year. They also have the on-base guys Justin Turner and Corey Seager at the top of their lineup. Plus, a few others. I will admit though the Nations secret weapon is speed as Trea Turner and Victor Robles can create chaos in the basepaths. But, other than that, the Dodgers have a better built offense and team.
Dodgers in 4
Danny → Dodgers
After winning a thriller of a Wild Card game Washington advanced to the NLDC to face the Dodgers. In the process they burned Scherzer and Strasburg. While the Dodgers have Kershaw and Buhuler waiting in the wind. Normal I’m a believer of a Wild Card team get hot and make a run but not in the N.L. Washington’s bullpen worries me still while L.A. will make quick work of the Nats and be waiting for the winner of St. Louis / Atlanta.
Dodgers in 3
Tommy → Dodgers
I think the Nationals are an intriguing team. They have a dynamic offense but the fact of the matter is they have been up and down. Without Grisham’s misplay, who knows if they even have enough to get past the Brewers? Honestly, I think they’ll be able to take a game on pure momentum of the home crowd in game three. But realistically, the Dodgers are just too strong. Max Scherzer proved in the wild card game that he still doesn’t have the clutch gene no matter how good of a year he has. I know he settled in after a rough first two innings, but he still would’ve taken the L if it weren’t for the 8th inning.
Bellinger is a bona fide stud and he might be able to carry the difference here on his own. I like the Dodgers offense more, I like the Dodgers clutch gene more, I LOVE the Dodgers bullpen compared to the Nationals, I think the Nats need a whole lot of #Natitude and even more luck. To me, it’s clear.
Dodgers in 4.
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