The Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers are ready to do battle for the National League championship and the right to move onto to the World Series. The NLCS gets underway on Monday night in Arlington, Texas.
At least one of these two teams is about to be challenged, right? There's no way around it now. The Braves and Dodgers both went 5-0 through the first two rounds of the playoffs. Sure, some of the games were closely contested, but neither even came close to facing elimination. Something's gotta give now.
Though often a playoff team, the Braves haven't been to the NLCS since 2001. They haven't won it since 1999. On the flip-side, the Dodgers have been to the NLCS now four of the last five years. They won the NL pennant in both 2017 and 2018.
The Braves were 35-25 with a +70 run differential in the regular season. They've outscored their opponents 24-5 in their five playoff wins. The Dodgers went a ridiculous 43-17 with a +136 run differential in the regular season and it's +19 in the playoffs.
Here are our CBS Sports staff predictions.
Dodgers in six: The Braves will give the Dodgers a challenge here, but L.A. has been (and is) the best team in baseball this year. Their depth is the envy of most other teams in baseball. Atlanta's pitching really stepped up during the NLDS, but I don't see them getting past a potent Dodgers lineup unscathed. The Dodgers bullpen is not the most reliable at the moment, but I see their offense just plowing their way through to a series win. I'll say that Mookie Betts records another impressive series here.
Dodgers in six: The Braves have a good team. I enjoy watching them play. I just don't think they can defeat the Dodgers in a long series ... unless Walker Buehler's blister is a bigger issue than it seems to be at present. Even then, the Dodgers probably find a way to advance to yet another World Series.
Dodgers in five: The two highest scoring teams in baseball during the regular season, and by a good margin too. The problem is the Dodgers allowed the second fewest runs per game. The Braves ranked 15th in run prevention. Granted, Ian Anderson is a beast and Kyle Wright's adjustments have made him a new pitcher, so this is a different pitching staff than the one Atlanta used all year, but I still think it's a notch or three below the Dodgers. Dodgers in five makes it seems like I expect a lopsided series, though I don't think it'll be all blowouts. The games will be exciting, but I think the Dodgers have too much of an edge in the run prevention department.
Dodgers in six: L.A. was easily the best team during the regular season, and their roster depth is the envy of every other team in baseball. The Braves right now have their pitching sorted out nicely, and I think this series is much closer than it would've been, say, a month ago. Atlanta's strength is undeniably its offense, but it's worth noting that the Dodgers out-scored them during the regular season. Yes, they out-scored them by only one run, but Dodger Stadium is a significantly tougher environment for hitters than Truist Park is. I think this one will be hotly fought, but I lean Dodgers in a compelling six-game series.
Dodgers in seven: The Dodgers haven't been tested yet, but that's about to change. The Braves' offense is amazingly powerful and can be relentless at times. Their bullpen is deep and talented while Max Fried and Ian Anderson resemble a pair of aces at the top of the rotation. The Dodgers are better and that's why they are the pick, but the Braves are going to make this a fun one.
Dodgers in five: It's the Dodgers' year. They have more depth, better arms, and more experience. I think this matchup is very similar to the ALCS matchup in terms of styles. Just like the Astros, the Braves have the lineup to crush with the best of them. But, both teams have also endured numerous injuries to their pitching staffs and the arms just aren't there for a best-of-seven series.