23 October 2020

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Braves vs Dodgers NLCS Game 7 Preview

The two greatest words in sports: “Game 7.” In a series that has been nothing short of exciting, the two best teams in the National League will square off one last time to claim the League Champion’s pennant and face the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series. The Dodgers and Braves have played a tight series but it hasn’t been so even the whole way. In games 1 and 2, the Braves took control of the game in the late innings and effectively shut down the Dodgers’ offense. The tides turned in game 3 when the Dodgers put up a historic 11 runs in the first inning en route to a blowout win. Atlanta won game 4 the same way they did in games 1 and 2 – with an easy win and Los Angeles won games 5 and 6 in a similar manner. Both teams have been built in similar ways with strong hitting, young homegrown pitching, and lockdown bullpens.

Atlanta Braves

Starting Lineup:

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1. Ronald Acuña Jr. – RF

2. Freddie Freeman – 1B

3. Marcell Ozuna – DH

4. Travis d’Arnaud – C

5. Ozzie Albies – 2B

6. Dansby Swanson – SS

7. Austin Riley – 3B

8. Nick Markakis – LF

9. Christian Pache – CF

Ian Anderson – P

The Braves’ offense has been one of the best in baseball since the 2020 season began and they’ve continued to be productive in the playoffs. In the NLCS, the lineup has produced from top to bottom with big offensive outbursts happening more frequently within one big inning instead of scoring big in multiple innings. This has cost them in the series at different points since their inability to score effectively across a full game is why they were unable to win games 5 and 6. For game 7, the Braves are turning to rookie Ian Anderson as their starter who’s been phenomenal all postseason. Not only did he keep the Dodgers scoreless in game 2, but he has yet to give up a run all postseason. Another one of the Braves’ biggest strengths was their bullpen, however, it’s been quite mediocre this series. At some points, the Dodgers have gotten to them but at other times they’ve easily kept the Dodgers in check. The key for the Braves is to score early and often against the Dodgers, and for Anderson to perform as well as he did in game 2. The bullpen should be able to take it from there to the end. If everything lines up well, the Braves will be back in the World Series for the first time since 1996 and they’ll be able to avoid blowing a 3-1 series lead.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Starting Lineup:

1. Mookie Betts – RF

2. Corey Seager – SS

3. Justin Turner – 3B

4. Max Muncy – 1B

5. Will Smith – C

6. Cody Bellinger – CF

7. AJ Pollock – LF

8. Joc Pederson – DH

9. Chris Taylor – 2B

Dustin May – P

The Dodgers are in a similar situation to the Braves with a top of the league offense. The Dodgers have performed as expected with a lineup as loaded as theirs, and they easily defeated the Brewers and Padres already in the postseason. However, facing the Braves’ pitching has been a toss-up for them. In three of the games, it was as if they could get nothing going, and in the other three, they showed why they had the best record in baseball. Unlike the Braves who have no single stand-out player, the Dodgers have Corey Seager, who if the Dodgers win, will most likely be the series MVP. It’s no question that if they can get momentum, the Dodgers can score plenty of runs, however, they struggled against Ian Anderson in game 2 and Anderson hasn’t allowed a run all postseason. The other big question is pitching. Dustin May will be tasked with starting the game, but since he’s appeared multiple times in the series already, it looks like he will only be in for an inning or two. They have games 2 and 3 starters Tony Gonsolin and Julio Urías available to pitch as well as game 4 starter and team ace Clayton Kershaw. The bullpen has also been pretty inconsistent as they’ve either given up runs to the Braves or have stopped their offense in its tracks. The biggest key to the game will be the manager, Dave Roberts. Roberts is known for overmanaging in the postseason and it cost the team in the past two postseasons. For the Dodgers to advance to their 3rd world series in four years, they’ll need their offense to score big as they have been, and for Roberts not to overmanage too much.

Both teams are very evenly stacked against each other and the game can easily go either way. It will be the first time in MLB Postseason history that two rookie pitchers will face-off in a winner take all game. The first pitch is at 8:15 p.m EST on FOX from Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.

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