The winner of the National League Championship Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers will likely come from the left. That’s not a political statement, but that is where the keys to victory may lie with both ball clubs.
There are four lefthanders starting the first two games while both teams have left-handed hitting that will need to be neutralized. What is “left” also needs to be balanced out by the “right” but what we do have is a very intriguing series that will likely go the distance.
Left hander Clayton Kershaw has shaken his label of not being able to pitch in the post season and he comes off a brilliant 8 innings of shutout ball in game 2 of the NLDS vs. Atlanta. The Brewers are giving the ball to southpaw Gio Gonzalez, who was not even on their NLDS roster.
The key for Kershaw and the entire Dodgers’ pitching staff is to limit the damage from NL MVP candidate Christian Yelich. During the season, Yelich hit .433 against Dodgers’ pitching including two home runs and 5 RBI’s.
Against Kershaw, Yelich is a .529 (9 for 17) career hitter. In two games this season against the 3x Cy Young Award winner, Yelich is 4 for 6 with 2 home runs. What is worth watching is that, of the two home runs, the first was on the first pitch of the at-bat, while the other one came on a 1-0 count. Yelich tries to attack Kershaw early in the count and may do so again tonight.
I expect the Dodgers to not let Yelich beat them so a key for Milwaukee’s offense will be whoever surrounds him in the batting order. Lead off hitter Lorenzo Cain, who hit .333 vs. the Dodgers this season is only .214 in his career vs Kershaw. Jesus Aguilar and Ryan Braun are candidates to bat behind Yelich in the three hole. Braun hit .315 with RISP this season and will likely get some opportunities if he hits behind Yelich.
Since their starting pitching is the achilles heel, Milwaukee will bank heavily on their bullpen to get them through this series. The Dodgers have already shown they can hit the Brewers’ bullpen so it remains to be seen if that continues.
The Brewers feel lefties are the way to go against LA’s offense.
The Dodgers feature left hand hitting fromm Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy and Joc Pederson. Against Milwaukee, Bellinger hit .227. Muncy batted .280 but did not hit a home run while Pederson was tough on the Brewers pitching staff with a .333 average, 2 HRS and 4 RBI’s.
Overall, the Dodgers’ offense is better than the Brewers because of the way they can balance their lineup with right handed hitters like Justin Turner, Yasiel Puig and Manny Machado who played all seven regular season games against Milwaukee. Turner only played 3 games and was 2 for 5 against Milwaukee this season.
The Dodgers won the season series 4-3 and outscored the Brewers 48-15 but 21 of those runs came in their final meeting in Los Angeles. The Dodgers won the series 2-1 in Milwaukee (Brewers had lost 7 of 8 coming into that series) and split four games at home.
Of course, there is always the “x factor”, the unpredictable ingredient that no one expects, that could possibly turn the series one way or another.
All the numbers dictate a hotly contested series between two very good teams.
Brewers in 7.
Tomorrow, the ALCS.