Who will win the NLCS?
Kris: If you had told me in June that the Braves would be right back in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. Since August, Atlanta has been one of the best teams in Major League Baseball. They were underdogs going into the NLDS and could have easily swept that series. A quick look at the Dodgers’ roster reminds you why the Braves are an underdog here but you don’t have to go back far in history to realize that the team with the best roster doesn’t always win the World Series, or in this case, the NLCS. There is just something about this Braves team right now. They are playing loose and with zero expectations and there is value in that I think. I don’t know how it will happen but I think they will find a way to advance. Braves in seven.
Eric: Look, the Braves are playing with house money this season. They defied the odds after Ozuna got hurt and then arrested, Ronald Acuna Jr. blew out his knee after being arguably the best player in baseball until that point, Mike Soroka not pitching an inning, and other guys missing big chunks of time. Making the NLCS is a huge accomplishment and if the Braves are going to surprise everyone, it very well could happen this year. That said, everything I see shows a scary looking Dodgers team that should be the favorite to win it all against a Braves team down some of its best players that had to scramble to just make the playoffs. Atlanta got some help from the Giants when they made that series go the full five games, but I’m still picking the Dodgers in six.
DJourn: I am not going to feign journalistic integrity here. Unabashedly, I hope Atlanta wins this series against Los Angeles. Regardless of who ultimately wins, the biggest winner may be the 2022 Braves since this additional playoff revenue should provide more money to put into the roster for next season. As for the NLCS, the Dodgers are the Dodgers, and as we saw last season, even when they are down, they aren’t out. Coming into this series Dodgers have won six consecutive playoff elimination games. Maybe this is the series where their streak ends. My head says LA in five but my heart says Braves in seven.
Aly: My heart says the Braves, but my head says the Dodgers. They are the defending champions, and always seem to do well in pressure situations. Their pitching staff is incredible and they have a lot of depth in their lineup. The Braves have done so well making it this far without Acuña and with everything else that has happened this season, but this might be where the luck runs out. If we did have a healthy Acuña, my answer would probably be different, but we don’t, and with Jorge Soler on the COVID-19 injured list, it’s not looking good. Maybe, just maybe, if the Braves’ bullpen really performs, and the lineup is on their game, we could pull through. I know they’ll definitely put up a fight, so I’m saying Dodgers in six.
Ivan: The Braves are substantial underdogs, but they’ve already won one series this postseason where they came in as (less substantial) underdogs. The Braves are the only thing standing in the way of a World Series we’ve already seen recently, so hopefully they find a way to randomly win four games before the Dodgers do. But it’s going to be tough, especially given that unless they sweep the first two games, they’ll have to win at least one in LA to avoid getting sent packing.
Scott: The head and the heart are different things. And I’m going with my heart, damn it. After winning 88 games this past season, it’s improbable that the Braves have reached this point without Ronald Acuna Jr., Marcell Ozuna, Mike Soroka and, presumably, Jorge Soler. The Dodgers are loaded and will be heavily favored on paper. But give me some more Atlanta magic as the Braves win the series in seven and reach the World Series for the first time since 1999.
Gaurav: I wish I could say this paragraph is devoid of bias but alas, it’s not. Baseball filled a void in my life while my parents had to work a lot. Baseball is how I developed a strong relationship with my father going out dating back to days where he would check me out of school on Wednesday’s when he got tickets to the games. The Dodgers are an insanely good, deep team with no real overwhelming flaws. They were built by a ton of money, but the money was used efficiently and their scouting and development departments are absolutely outstanding. They are built to win now, in the past, and in the future - and keep their fans happy by constantly investing in their team. But, like I said, I can’t remove my bias - Braves in seven. The Braves have three starting pitchers you don’t mind getting the ball with the season on the line, and a strong bullpen. They will sure as h*ck miss having Ronald setting the pace, and with Soler out for however long it’s yet another uphill battle, but crazy things happen and I want to be happy.
Dillon: My entire adult life has been spent watching every team in this state fall apart when it matters. The Braves have their share of shortcomings in that span, but it ends here. Are they better than the Dodgers? No. Would they have a better shot with Ronald Acuna and Jorge Soler healthy and playing? Yes. But none of that matters because the Braves have suffered long enough and they have just enough firepower to make this a series. Freddie Freeman, Joc Pederson, Max Fried, and the entire bullpen carried this team through the NLDS against the Brewers. Whether those same heroes remain or new ones emerge, the Braves will find a way to Beat LA in seven games and then put an end to the misery of Atlanta sports fans against whichever band of cheaters prevail in the American League. Enough is enough. See you all at the parade.
AB: I think there is a good chance that the Braves pounce on LA in the first two games. Short turnaround for the Dodgers and their pitching is out of whack for Game 1. But they have a ton of studs despite losing Bauer, Kershaw, and Muncy. It will be closer than it appears right now, but I don’t know how we pull this together. Thinking Dodgers in 7 as long as we can stop Duvall from Lonnie Smithing us to death.
Demetrius: I’m going to start this off by saying that this is totally do-able for the Braves. If Fried, Morton, and Anderson can pick up where they left off in the Milwaukee series and the Braves continue to get some timely hitting, then this is absolutely not an impossible task for the Braves. The shock-and-awe factor of the Dodgers is lost on this crew since this will be their third time seeing them in four years. Familiarity may breed contempt but it also dulls any shocks or surprises, so I’d imagine the Braves know by now that this is a team they can compete with. On paper, the Dodgers are clearly better and we know from just last year how dangerous they can be but they aren’t immune to stepping on rakes, themselves. When they’re clicking as a unit it’s crazy to watch but their offense has been known to disappear at times.
Their pitching is the main force that’s gotten them this far and to be honest, that’ll probably be the difference in this series. On their best day, the Braves can pitch with anybody but they’ll have to be at their best in order to take this crew down. Meanwhile, LA’s pitching depth is just ridiculous. This is going to be a better series than people think — I’m thinking this might play out like the 1999 NLCS where those Mets just absolutely refused to die but the Braves were just too strong and outlasted them to get back to the World Series. This time, the Braves will be in that role of a team who just refuses to quit but eventually bows out to a team that’s just too good. Dodgers in 6.
Daniel: This series is not impossible for the Braves to win, because there is real talent on this Atlanta team and baseball is weird, but I’ll go Dodgers in 5. LA has absurd talent in all aspects of the game. The Braves do have home field advantage, but if the series ends in five then the Dodgers will have had more home games than Atlanta. The absence of Jorge Soler really hurts here, when the Braves would be clear underdogs even with him. For Atlanta to win, they need to take advantage of the Dodgers pitching not being lined up early as a result of their NLDS series going to five games, they need the pitching to continue to be nails in the postseason, and they need some big production from at least two of Dansby Swanson, Adam Duvall, and Travis d’Arnaud. This is a tall task but not an impossible one for the Braves. It would be cool if they did it, not only because we like Atlanta here, but also to give us all a world series matchup that we haven’t seen in the last few years.