The Los Angeles Dodgers, who have led Major League Baseball in wins for most of the summer, are fighting for their seventh straight NL West crown and a third straight trip to the World Series, where they hope to finally finish the season on top. That being said, the Braves are going to have their hands full when L.A. stops in Atlanta this weekend in what could be a preview of the NLCS.
Don’t get me wrong, L.A. is going to have its hands full, too. It’s not everyday the top two teams in the NL square off, so this series will be the toughest test yet for both squads.
Both teams have big threats at the plate, so pitching is going to be key this weekend. The Braves will most likely throw two of their young studs — Mike Soroka on Friday and Max Fried on Sunday. The Dodgers will likely counter with two of their backend starters — Kenta Mada (Friday) and Dustin May (Sunday). Hyun-Jin Ryu is scheduled to pitch against Mike Foltynewicz on Saturday. Both squads have excellent starting pitching in my estimation, so let’s look at the X-factor — bullpens.
Both bullpens started the year off slow, but have turned themselves around as the season has progressed. According to ESPN, the Dodgers’ bullpen is seventh in all of baseball with an ERA of 4.00, while the Braves’ is 12th with an ERA of 4.32. Both are below the league average of 4.55. I don’t see a big enough difference to say that one bullpen is heads and tails better than the other, and I think a handful of pitches late in the games will determine how the series sways.
If I were a betting man, I think LA will be heading back west with the series victory, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Atlanta stole a game.