The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Milwaukee Brewers will meet in the NLCS, which begins on Friday. The Brewers, who swept the Rockies in their NLDS, has the home field advantage and will host the first two games of this series. The Dodgers won their NLDS over the Braves in four games. Oddsmakers have installed the Dodgers as the -140 favorites to win the NLCS, while the Brewers can be had at +120.
The Dodgers have the undisputed edge in the starting pitching battle. Hyun-Jin Ryu and Clayton Kershaw were phenomenal in their NLDS starts, building on L.A.’s second-best starting ERA from the regular season. Milwaukee, which felt the need to employ the “bullpen game” strategy in Game 1 of their NLDS, was 11th in starting pitcher ERA in 2018. The Brewers don’t have any household names at the top of their rotation, and certainly no perennial Cy Young contenders like Kershaw.
If Milwaukee wants to win the NLCS, they’ll have to rely on their relievers. Fortunately for them, their bullpen was among the best in the game in 2018. Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffress, Corey Knebel and Joakim Soria can be used interchangeably by manager Craig Counsell, who acknowledged the benefit of extra rest for his relievers after sweeping Colorado.
“We’ll take it, use it to get ready and guys will enjoy it,” Counsell told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Monday. “We’ll get a couple of days to relax, then we’ll turn it on when the game happens. It’s a good thing for us. We’re not going to complain about it one bit, and it’s not going to be an excuse.”
The Brewers are riding an 11-game win streak dating back to Sept. 23. The offense has been well-balanced during that span, with Christian Yelich, Travis Shaw and Ryan Braun all hitting well. Even catcher Erik Kratz has chipped in, amassing five hits in the last two games of the NLDS.
However, the Dodgers have been no slouches at the plate. Yasiel Puig drove Braves pitchers crazy during the NLDS, as he hit .333 with four walks and two stolen bases. Justin Turner had a .500 on-base percentage in that series. Manny Machado and Max Muncy both batted less than .200, but they led their club in RBI with six and four, respectively.
Expect Kershaw and Ryu to silence the Brewers’ batters while L.A.’s offense builds early leads and neutralizes the impact of Milwaukee’s late-inning relievers.
Prediction: Dodgers win the NLCS, 4-1
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The play: Dodgers to win the NLCS (-140)