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Dodgers Dugout: NLCS prediction — Dodgers over Braves in six games

Arlington, Texas, Thursday October 8, 2020. Chris Taylor, Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts celebrate.
The Dodgers celebrate their sweep of the San Diego Padres.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and why do I have a feeling we are going to have a Dodgers-Astros World Series this year.

What better way to cap off a bizarre, mystifying year.

I have a dream scenario for this season: Clayton Kershaw pitches the Dodgers to victory in Game 7 of the NLCS, then pitches a two-hit shutout in Game 4 of the World Series as the Dodgers sweep the Astros.

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Like I said, it’s a dream scenario. The odds of it happening exactly like that are infinitesimal.

But first, the Atlanta Braves in the best-of-seven NLCS. All games at Arlington, Texas again. Dodgers are the home team for Games 1, 2, 6 and 7.

You can’t really do a direct statistical comparison between the teams, since they played different competition. The Dodgers played the NL West and AL West, while the Braves played the AL East and NL East. The Braves faced tougher competition and finished the season 35-25.

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The Braves have played five postseason games, won all five, and tossed four shutouts. So, anyone thinking this will be an easy matchup, think again.

Let’s compare each position:

Catcher
Will Smith (.289/.401/.579/164 OPS+/1.3 WAR)
Travis d’Arnaud (.321/.386/.533/0.6)

Yes, that’s the same d’Arnaud who was with the Dodgers for about five minutes last season.

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Edge: Dodgers

First base
Max Muncy (.192/.331/.389/97 OPS+/0.2 WAR)
Freddie Freeman (.341/.462/.640/186/2.9)

Muncy is having an off year, while Freeman is a leading NL MVP candidate.

Edge: Braves

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Second base
Chris Taylor (.270/.366/.476/129/1.8)
Ozzie Albies (.271/.306/.466/99/0.6)

You can expect Kiké Hernandez to come in for defense if the Dodgers lead late, with Taylor moving to second base. Hernandez could also start at second against lefties, with Taylor moving to left.

Edge: Dodgers

Third base
Justin Turner (.307/.400/.460/135/1.3)
Austin Riley (.239/.301/.415/86/-0.7)

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The negative WAR really says it all for Riley.

Edge: Dodgers

Shortstop
Corey Seager (.307/.358/.585/152/1.9)
Dansby Swanson (.274/.345/.464/110/2.6)

Over half of Swanson’s impressive WAR score is for defense. This could be a toss-up, but I’ll go with ...

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Edge: Dodgers

Left field
AJ Pollock (.276/.314/.566/134/0.6)
Adam Duvall (.237/.302/.532/113/0.6)

Another relatively close one, but ...

Edge: Dodgers

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Center field
Cody Bellinger (.239/.333/.455/113/1.4)
Ronald Acuna Jr. (.250/.406/.581/155/2.1)

Bellinger had a strong second half and postseason so far, but ...

Edge: Braves

Right field
Mookie Betts (.292/.366/562/149/3.4)
Nick Markakis (.254/.312/.392/84/-0.3)

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Does anyone still wish they hadn’t traded Alex Verdugo for Betts?

Edge: Dodgers

DH
Joc Pederson (.190/.285/.397/84/-0.4)
Marcell Ozuna (.338/.431/.636/175/2.3)

The Dodgers will be in a bit better shape if Edwin Ríos is ready to return, but either way ...

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Edge: Braves

Starting rotation

All we know for sure for the Dodgers is they are going with Walker Buehler and his blister in Game 1, and Clayton Kershaw in Game 2. With no days off between games, you are sure to see Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin and Julio Urías at some point in Games 3, 4 and 5, whether it be as a starter or as a middle innings “bulk reliever.”

The Braves’ two best starters are Max Fried and Ian Anderson. Fried went 7-0 with a 2.25 ERA, giving up 42 hits and 19 walks in 56 innings, while striking out 50. Anderson is 22 and burst onto the scene this year, finishing with a 1.95 ERA in six starts, thanks to a devastating changeup. After that, the Braves’ starting pitching falls off a cliff.

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Edge: Dodgers

Bullpen

The Dodger bullpen is really good, but in a state of flux now that Kenley Jansen is no longer the closer. Expect to see a closer-by-committee, with the team using whatever pitcher they think matches up well in whatever inning they are needed. The Braves have their bullpen roles more set, with Mark Melancon as the closer rounding out a solid mix of relievers.

Edge: Tossup

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Bench

Tough to grade, since we don’t really know who will be on the bench for either team, other than the obvious.

Edge: Incomplete

Prediction: Dodgers in six.

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Who will be on the Dodgers’ roster?

The Dodgers will announce their NLCS roster some time today. Who will be on it? We know most of the names of course. But what about Terrance Gore? Will they still carry a guy who will only be used as a pinch-runner? It’s one of those Catch-22 situations. If you leave him off, you’ll need him. Put him on, you’ll never need him. On Saturday, Dave Roberts said that Ríos was at 75%, which doesn’t sound too promising. Will Keibert Ruiz return to the roster, allowing the Dodgers to more safely put Smith at DH when Barnes catches? Let’s hope so. I’d rather see Ruiz than Gore. Will Alex Wood or Dennis Santana be added to the pitching staff, in case the Dodgers need a long man? We’ll find out some time today.

You can watch the NLCS games at Dodger Stadium

The team announced Friday that it would host a drive-in watch party for each NLCS game in two Dodger Stadium parking lots. Tickets are $75 per car and can be bought by clicking here. Note: You must buy your ticket online in advance, you can’t buy tickets at the stadium.

Other things you need to know:

—No concessions will be available, but fans can bring food and non-alcoholic beverages.
—Fans can leave their cars only to use the restroom and must wear a mask to do so.
—The games will be shown on a 60-foot screen, with audio broadcast through the FM radio in the car.
—You must view the game from within your vehicle.
—You must practice social distancing at all times.
—You must adhere to staff directions at all times, including with respect to the enforcement of wearing face coverings and maintaining social distance.
—You will not have any access to Dodger Stadium.

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This does not sound like the greatest way to enjoy the game, but to each their own.

Dodgers-Braves schedule

Here’s the NLCS schedule. The Dodgers will be the home team for Games 1, 2, 6 and 7. All times are Pacific. All game at Arlington, Texas.

Game 1: Tonight, 5 p.m., Atlanta (Max Fried**) vs. Dodgers (Walker Buehler), Fox
Game 2: Tuesday, TBD, Atlanta (Ian Anderson) vs. Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw**), FS1
Game 3: Wednesday, TBD, Dodgers (TBD) vs. Atlanta (Kyle Wright), TBD
Game 4: Thursday, TBD, Dodgers (TBD) vs. Atlanta (TBD), TBD
Game 5*: Friday, TBD, Dodgers (TBD) vs. Atlanta (TBD), TBD
Game 6*: Saturday, TBD, Atlanta (TBD) vs. Dodgers (TBD), TBD
Game 7*: Sunday, TBD, Atlanta (TBD) vs. Dodgers (TBD), TBD

*-If necessary
**-left-handed

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Your first Dodgers memory

I have thousands of responses, so if I don’t get to yours right away, don’t worry, I will eventually. If you haven’t already, I’d still love for you to send me your first Dodgers memory, and it might run in an upcoming Dodgers Dugout. Include your name. And don’t send only a sentence. Tell why that memory sticks out in your mind. You can email me your memory at houston.mitchell@latimes.com. And remember, it’s first Dodgers memory, not favorite Dodgers memory. Thanks.

Nob Scott of Centennial, Colo: I remember the Dodgers moving from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958, when I was 12. I played little league baseball for the Dodgers, in Anaheim, and my first memory of the Dodgers was that year when my dad took me to the Coliseum to attend a game against the Chicago Cubs. We arrived early for a day game and my dad let me go out to the bleachers during batting practice. I was lucky enough to catch a baseball, which had been hit over the left-field screen.

I then spent the next several seasons attending as many games as possible, while waiting for the players, after the games, to walk out to their cars, so that I could ask them to sign my Official National League baseball. I listened to Vin Scully on my transistor radio for the next several decades. I have been a die-hard Dodger ever since that first game in 1958.

P.S. I still have that baseball proudly displayed on my office bookshelf. It is signed by 19 players and coaches from that era, including names: Sandy Koufax, Johnny Podres, Gil Hodges, Carl Furillo, Frank Howard, Duke Snider (my idol), Ron Perranoski, Larry Sherry, Wally Moon, and Maury Wills.

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Jim Ragan: I am 83, so I go back a long time. I became a Dodger fan when they moved to Los Angeles in 1958. I moved away from LA in 1959 (to the east coast and Europe), not to return until 1970. The first Dodger game I personally attended was in Philadelphia (driving from Washington, DC) at the end of the 1966 season. It was a doubleheader. Thousands for people from Brooklyn were at the game. The Dodgers had to win one to clinch the pennant. Don Drysdale pitched the first and the Dodgers lost. Sandy pitched the second and won. If Drysdale had won the first game, Sandy would have pitched the first game of the World Series. The Dodgers lost the World Series, 4-0. Then Sandy retired. So, I was there for the last game that Sandy ever won. Throughout the 1970s upon our return to LA, my kids and I were regulars at Dodger Stadium: upper deck, first row, right above home plate. That’s where they learned, when seeing a fly ball, to listen to the bat’s sound in deciding whether it would be a home run.

Brian Thomas: Not sure of the year but it was in the late sixties when I was about 9 years old. Living in N.J., I had never been to a pro baseball game, but I was hooked on baseball for sure. Then my father’s company, Western Electric, put together a group trip to Shea Stadium in New York and the Mets were playing the Dodgers. We sat behind home plate but way up, probably third deck seats. My memories include how scary it was looking down, how impossible it was to judge where a fly ball or pop was going to land since they all looked like home runs from that seat, and watching Wes Parker hit the first home run I ever saw in person over the right-field fence. The Dodgers won and I have been a fan since!

In case you missed it

Dodgers can win without a traditional closer. Look at the last three champions

Dodgers refine their offensive approach to adapt to playoff baseball, Globe Life Field

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Andrew Friedman’s handprints are evident on all four teams in MLB playoffs

Atlanta Braves a formidable obstacle in the Dodgers’ path to the World Series

And finally

Dodgers vs. Cardinals in 1985 NLCS Game 1. Watch it here.

Until next time...

Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.

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