Dodgers at Brewers – NLCS Game 1 Pick
Before the season began, many people predicted the Los Angeles Dodgers would make it to the National League Championship Series. Few people, however, predicted that they would face the Milwaukee Brewers in said NLCS. Not only that, even fewer likely predicted that the Brewers would be the team with home field advantage in the NLCS. That’s why they play the games, I reckon.
So, here we are. L.A. and Milwaukee will duke it out over the course of a best-of-7 series to determine which team represents the National League in the World Series. Despite the fact that they will start the series away from home, most believe the Dodgers will get through to the Fall Classic for the second straight season. Time will tell, of course. The Dodgers will put their ace, Clayton Kershaw, on the mound in Game 1 at Miller Park. The Brew Crew will counter with left-handed veteran Gio Gonzalez.
Kershaw hasn’t looked quite like the same high-strikeout pitcher we’ve seen in years past, but he sure looked good in the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves. In Game 2 at Dodger Stadium, Kershaw held the Braves scoreless over the course of 8 dominant innings. He struck out just 3 along the way before exiting prior to the ninth after having thrown just 85 pitches. Kenley Jansen came on in relief to get the save and give L.A. a commanding 2-0 series lead.
While Kershaw’s strikeout numbers have dipped this season, he is still one of the 5 or 10 best pitchers in all of baseball. He has come up small in big playoff spots in the past, but Dave Roberts still trusts him enough to go out there and deliver in Game 1 of the NLCS.
The big southpaw faced these Brewers twice during the regular season, once at Dodger Stadium and once at Miller Park. He allowed 4 runs (1 earned) in 6 innings of work in an eventual 4-2 loss in Milwaukee back in July. About a week later in Los Angeles, he surrendered 2 runs on 5 hits in 6 innings of work in a 21-5 whooping by the Dodgers. The Dodgers clubbed 7 home runs that day against Jhoulys Chacin and a few unfortunate Milwaukee relievers.
Kershaw has generally been quite a bit tougher on left-handed hitters than righties over the course of his career. As a result, I think he will be able to keep the likes of Mike Moustakas and Travis Shaw in check here if they crack the lineup. Kershaw will have to deal with quite a few tough righties, however, including Ryan Braun, Lorenzo Cain, Jesus Aguilar and Jonathan Schoop. Having the platoon advantage over this season’s presumptive National League MVP in Christian Yelich should also be of benefit to the Dodgers’ starter.
How the Dodgers’ bullpen fares here should be interesting. L.A.’s relievers were lights-out against the Braves, which was a good sign for Los Angeles considering their group of relievers endured quite a few hiccups during the regular season. Can Kenley Jansen be the dominant closer that he was in 2017? We haven’t seen it consistently from him this season, but the Dodgers will need him to slam the door if they plan on advancing to the World Series. It’s worth noting that Roberts replaced lefty Scott Alexander in the bullpen with another left-hander in Julio Urias for this series.
It was something of a surprise when manager Craig Counsell announced that Gonzalez will get the ball in Game 1 for Milwaukee. Gonzalez, who came over in a trade from the Washington Nationals prior to the deadline, did not appear in the team’s NLDS sweep over the Colorado Rockies. The Brewers have been going heavy with the bullpen to this point, with Counsell just hoping the starters can give him 5 solid innings before handing the ball over to Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffress and Corey Knebel.
This will be Gio’s first outing since a scoreless showing against the Tigers back on September 30. He was a bit wobbly at times during the regular season. Gonzalez had a mediocre SIERA of 4.73 across his 32 starts between Washington and Milwaukee. The left-hander’s strikeout rate dipped to to just 19.8 percent this season, while his walk rate nearing 11 percent gave him constant traffic with which to deal on the basepaths.
The Dodgers had a reputation as a team that struggled to hit left-handed pitching a couple of years ago, but they have more than rectified that this season. Expect Roberts to put a slew of quality right-handed hitters into the lineup tonight against Gonzalez and his wide platoon split. Gio allowed a .334 wOBA with 15 home runs this season to right-handed hitters. Justin Turner, Manny Machado, Enrique Hernandez, Matt Kemp, David Freese and Yasiel Puig will all hold the platoon advantage here. Brian Dozier is another quality bat Gio will have to face if he manages to crack the starting 9.
You can get the Dodgers to win this thing outright at -153 on the moneyline, which doesn’t leave you much room for profit. L.A. is listed at +100 to cover the -1 1/2 runline, as well, which is a little better. Given the discrepancy in talent between the starting pitchers, I could see the Dodgers jumping out to an early lead in this one. Given the quality of the Brewers’ stellar bullpen, scoring runs early may be crucial if the Dodgers want to nab at least one of these two games in Milwaukee.
I’m not confident in saying the Dodgers can cruise to victory here, but they are pretty clearly the more talented team. Talent doesn’t always win out given baseball’s relative randomness, but I like L.A. to take a 1-0 series lead tonight. Kershaw will deliver, and the Dodger bats will put a few runs on the board against Gio. Counsell will be optimistic that Gonzalez can get him 3-5 quality innings here, but I think the depth and overall quality of the Los Angeles lineup will lead to trouble here. I’m expecting Counsell to have a quick hook here and that he will have to go to the bullpen fairly early on. That could lead to trouble, especially considering there is a quick turnaround to play Game 2 on Saturday.
I think the Dodgers get a pretty easy win here tonight. Take L.A. on the runline.
$100 stake could win...