Dodgers vs. Brewers prediction, preview: MLB playoffs schedule, bracket, live stream, TV, and things to know

On Friday, we'll witness the start of the 2018 National League Championship Series and it's a beauty. We've got the Milwaukee Brewers, coming from the smallest market in baseball and having never won an NL pennant against the defending NL champion Dodgers, who reside in the second-largest market in baseball. 

David vs. Goliath? I'm sure some will paint it that way. The Brewers did end up with the most wins in the NL, though, and have home-field advantage in this series as a result. 

Here is what you need to know about this series. 

LCS games will air on Fox, FS1 and TBS, which can be streamed on fuboTV (Try for free). For a look at the complete schedule, click here  

NLCS schedule, bracket

DateTimeMatchupTV

Fri., Oct. 12

8:09 p.m. ET

L.A. Dodgers at Milwaukee

FS1

Sat., Oct. 13

4:09 p.m. ET

L.A. Dodgers at Milwaukee

Fox

Mon., Oct. 15

7:39 p.m. ET

Milwaukee at L.A. Dodgers

FS1

Tue., Oct. 16

9:09 p.m. ET

Milwaukee at L.A. Dodgers

FS1

Wed., Oct. 17*

5:05 p.m. ET

Milwaukee at L.A. Dodgers

FS1

Fri., Oct. 19*

8:39 p.m. ET

L.A. Dodgers at Milwaukee

FS1

Sat., Oct. 20*

9:09 p.m. ET

L.A. Dodgers at Milwaukee

FS1

*- if necessary  

mlb-playoff-bracket-2018.jpg
Mike Meredith/CBS Sports

The Brewers haven't lost in a long time

The Brewers closed the regular season with an eight-game winning streak, just stealing the NL Central from the Cubs, and then swept the Rockies in the NLDS. It's an 11-game winning streak overall, but it's more jarring when we put it in this context:

By the time the NLCS starts, it will have been 20 days since the Brewers last lost a game. 

Take from this what you will, whether it's "they are so hot they'll keep winning," "they are due for a loss" or that it doesn't really mean anything other than that they have been playing great baseball. 

I just find it interesting and outstanding. 

The Dodgers have been one of baseball's best teams for a while

Through 162 games, the Dodgers were 91-71 and needed to win a tiebreaker game over the Rockies to secure their sixth straight NL West title. That is 13 games worse than last season and they were only good enough for the third-best record in the NL. With this level of payroll and talent, it probably sounds like a disappointing regular season. After all, they were "under" on the over/under Vegas line. 

We always need context, though. Almost everything that could have possibly gone wrong did for about six weeks. 

From early to mid-May, the Dodgers lost nine of 10 games with eight of those losses coming to the three NL last-place teams (Padres, Reds, Marlins). They got Justin Turner back and a sort of switch flipped. From May 15 to the end of the season, the Dodgers went 76-45, four games better than the Cubs for the best record in the NL in that time (five games better than the Brewers). 

That 76-45 record, by the way, is a 162-game pace of 102 wins. They just won three of four from the Braves, too, which pretty well falls in line with that. 

Basically, these Dodgers have been a true talent 102-win team since the middle of May. 

Two championship droughts in context

Again, there's always context. For the huge-money, marquee-franchise Dodgers, not winning the World Series since 1988 is a drought. This is their 12th trip to the playoffs since that championship and, again, their sixth straight appearance in the postseason. They have yet to get the job done and last year was their first pennant since 1988. Many surely believe this is unacceptable and anything less than hoisting that trophy after the Fall Classic will be considered a disappointment. 

On the flip-side, the Brewers don't get here all too often. This is only the fifth playoff appearance in franchise history. There were none between 1982 and 2008. This is only the third time in a League Championship Series and the second time on the NL side. The franchise has one pennant, but that was in the AL. The Brewers have never been to the World Series as the NL representative. 

Also, the Brewers have been in existence for 50 years and have never won the World Series. The Dodgers have been to the playoffs 32 times with 23 pennants and six World Series titles. 

The Brewers have great power

During the regular season, the Brewers' 218 home runs ranked second in the NL. They were third in slugging percentage, too. Jesus Aguilar (hopefully MLB broadcasters out there can learn how to pronounce his last name), Travis Shaw and likely NL MVP Christian Yelich topped 30 homers. Ryan Braun hit 20, but five came in the team's last seven games. Eric Thames hit 16 in a half-season's worth of at-bats. Mike Moustakas hit 28 between the Royals and the Brewers after hitting 38 last season. Jonathan Schoop hit 21 between his two stops after hitting 32 last season. 

You get the point. The Brewers are a threat to leave the yard on pretty much every at-bat. 

Ahead of all those boppers, too, is the perfect table setter. Lorenzo Cain hit .308 with a .395 on-base percentage and 30 stolen bases. In 620 plate appearances, he only struck out 94 times. Fun fact on Cain: He's been in eight different postseason series now and his team has won seven of them, with the 2014 World Series loss in Game 7 by one run (90 feet away!) being the lone loss. 

Brewers pitching has been excellent

The biggest weakness on the Brewers is the rotation, but the bullpen is ridiculous and in the best shape it's ever been (read more here as to why). 

The two starters the Brewers are most likely to heavily lean on are Jhoulys Chacin and Wade Miley

In Chacin's last 11 regular season starts, he pitched to a 2.67 ERA. On short rest in Game 2 of the NLDS, he threw five scoreless innings while only allowing three hits (all singles). 

Miley has simply become a different pitcher since discovering the cutter (more here on that from last month). He had a 2.57 ERA in 15 starts. 

Also, Gio Gonzalez pitched well once he was acquired and the Dodgers -- while it's a far cry from what it was in 2016 -- hit lefties worse than they do righties. 

Expect Counsell to be creative with a bullpen day being possible and he'll likely only try to get five innings, max, from his starters. What for aggressive and early hooks if there is trouble. 

Dodgers offense is potent and dangerous

The Dodgers led the NL in runs and home runs. That was with only 103 games of Justin Turner and 66 of Manny Machado. Seven players hit at least 20 home runs. It's nine if we include Machado (37 total) and Brian Dozier (21).

They are especially stellar at present. In September (including Oct. 1 with the tiebreaker), the Dodgers hit .274/.359/.490. A league-average line this season was .248/.318/.409. In four games against the Braves in the NLDS, the Dodgers didn't hit for average, but they drew 27 walks, hit eight homers and averaged five runs scored per game.

Dodgers will be more starter-heavy with pitching

The Dodgers definitely have a weaker bridge from starter to closer (Kenley Jansen) than the Brewers (who don't even technically have a closer so much as a stable of them). Where they make up for it is a superior rotation. 

Clayton Kershaw is coming off perhaps his best career postseason start. And while he's not the best pitcher in the world anymore, he's a Hall of Famer with a 2.73 ERA in his age-30 season. 

Hyun-Jin Ryu made only 15 starts this season, but he pitched to a 1.97 ERA and 1.01 WHIP with the best strikeout and lowest walk rates of his career. He looked like an ace in seven scoreless innings (4 H, 0 BB, 8 K) against the Braves in Game 1 of the NLDS, too. 

Walker Buehler had a rough go of it in Game 3 of the NLDS, but that was really only one inning and we could actually say it was just two or three hitters in that inning. Overall, he's had an excellent rookie season, one that would win him Rookie of the Year if there weren't two historically-good position players 20 and younger. Buehler really kicked it in down the stretch. In his last 12 regular-season starts, Buehler had a 1.55 ERA and held opposing hitters to a .158/.238/.239 slash line. 

Rich Hill is a good fourth starter, too. 

The Dodgers then need to get the ball to Jansen. Expect Pedro Baez, who had a good year, Kenta Maeda, Scott Alexander, Caleb Ferguson and Ryan Madson to get the most use. It's not a great group, but it's plenty capable. 

Again, though, the rotation is good enough for us to see some seven-inning outings and that obviously limits the impact of the bullpen as a whole. 

The benches are very deep

The following players came off the bench during the NLDS round for the Dodgers: David Freese, Chris Taylor, Joc Pederson, Max Muncy, Brian Dozier, Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp. The depth of the roster gives manager Dave Roberts so many options in platoon situations and with pinch hitting and/or double switching. 

Likewise, Brewers manager Craig Counsell has good bench options. One of Shaw, Moustakas or Schoop starts every game on the bench. Domingo Santana hit 30 homers last season and hit .414/.469/.793 with five doubles and two homers in 32 pinch-hit appearances this season. Curtis Granderson had a .355 on-base percentage with 13 homers in 375 plate appearances against right handers this season. Hernan Perez is a good base-stealing threat off the bench and played every position except catcher this season. Keon Broxton is an excellent defensive outfielder for the late innings. 

Two good defenses

The Brewers ranked fifth in defensive efficiency (the percentage of balls in play converted to outs) in the majors while the Dodgers were ninth. The Brewers were second in defensive runs saved and the Dodgers were seventh. The Brewers do sacrifice some range when Shaw is at second base and they make too many errors, but overall they rate really well. Cain in center is amazing. 

Prediction

I know about the full-season record and how hot the Brewers are right now, but the Dodgers feel like they are obviously -- even if it's close -- the better and more talented team. I also feel like the Brewers have something really special going on right now and absolutely can stand toe to toe with them. Let's go with Brewers in seven, with Yelich hitting a walk-off bomb. Wouldn't that be something? 

Dodgers-Brewers staff predictions
CBS Sports Writer

Matt Snyder has been a baseball writer with CBS Sports since 2011. A member of the BBWAA, he's now covered every World Series since 2010. The former Indiana University baseball player now lives on the... Full Bio

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