After a marathon 162-game season, the MLB postseason is set. The NL side of the bracket has no shortage of storylines and top teams.
Let’s take a look at how each team got here and pick who advances to the NLCS.
Atlanta Braves (88-73) vs Milwaukee Brewers (95-67)
Game 1: Friday, 4:30 p.m. EST in Milwaukee on TBS
The Brewers ran away with the NL Central this season. While they only officially beat out the St. Louis Cardinals by five games, the result was never in doubt, and St. Louis’s 17-game winning streak in September made the final standings appear closer than they actually were.
With Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, and Freddy Peralta leading the rotation and Josh Hader and Hunter Strickland coming out of the bullpen, Milwaukee finished 3rd in all of MLB in team ERA (3.50) and tops in strikeouts (1,618) and shutouts (19).
Atlanta didn’t have as smooth of a ride into October, however. They only spent 51 days in first place in the NL East. They have overcome season-ending injuries to Ronald Acuna Jr. and Mike Soroka, and Travis d’Arnaud missed significant time as well with an injury of his own.
Even with the injuries, the Braves were able to take advantage of a weak NL East, going 44-28 over the second half of the season and winning the division by 6.5 games at just 88 wins.
The pitching has improved mightily since the All-Star break. Before the break, their team ERA was 4.27. After, it improved by almost a full run, dropping to 3.44. The two teams split their six matchups over the regular season.
Atlanta has shown a lot of resiliency over a tough season, but the Brewers have the edge. With a three-headed monster leading the rotation and home-field, they should be able to handle the Braves in 4.
Los Angeles Dodgers (106-56) vs San Francisco Giants (107-55)
Game 1: Friday, 9:30 p.m. EST in San Francisco on TBS
The two best teams in baseball are facing off. The storied rivalry adds another layer as the two teams meet up in the postseason for the first time.
While it is only the NLDS (say what you want about the playoff format), baseball fans deserve this matchup. It would have been a shame if the 106-win Dodgers had been knocked off in a one-game play-in.
The Dodgers are trying to become the first team to repeat as World Series champions in 21 years. The 1998-2000 Yankees were the last team to do so, winning three straight.
To help bolster their roster and make a run at the NL West, they added Max Scherzer and Trea Turner from the Nationals at the deadline. Over the second half of the season, they went a staggering 50-21. Even with a record that impressive, they only gained one game in the standings, as the Giants went 50-23.
San Francisco is the surprise of the MLB season. They won a franchise-record 107 wins and won the NL West for the first time since 2012. They have done it with an older core of players. Key contributors include Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria, and others.
Kevin Gausman had a career year, and the Giants finished 2nd in team ERA (3.24). The only team with a better ERA? The Dodgers, with an impressive mark of 3.01.
The Dodgers have the star power, the Giants have the productive veterans, and both teams have over 100 wins. The season series was as close as it gets, with the Giants holding a 10-9 advantage. Only one advances to the NLCS.
As fun and surprising as the Giants have been this season, it is so hard to pick against the Dodgers. They have won three of the last four NL pennants, and they have a better team than the 2020 team. While I will take the Dodgers, it wouldn’t surprise me if this series went the full five games and if the Giants were able to knock off the defending champs.