2020 NL wild card series preview: Brewers vs. Dodgers

In a rematch of the 2018 National League Championship Series, the Milwaukee Brewers square off against the overall top-seed in the Los Angeles Dodgers.

For an eighth-straight year, the Dodgers clinched the NL West division title but as of right now, they have nothing to show for it. LA was eliminated in the NLDS in 2014, 2015 and 2019, eliminated in the NLCS in 2013 and 2016, and were *defeated in the World Series* by the *Houston Astros* in 2017 and the Boston Red Sox in 2018.

It feels as though the Dodgers have thrown everything but the kitchen sink in attempt to finally win the Commissioner’s Trophy for the first time since 1988. While the Dodgers are heavily-favored to win this short series against the Brewers, LA has not clinched a playoff series at Dodger Stadium since Juan Uribe’s go-ahead home run against the Atlanta Braves in their 2013 NLDS series.

The Dodgers have all the tools in place but will the talent finally show up in the postseason?

LA’s offense was among the elite in the shortened season. They were first in home runs (118), second in RBI (327), fifth in On-Base Percentage (.338), first in slugging (.483) and second in On-base plus slugging (.821). The offense was anchored by newly-acquired superstar Mookie Betts, who immediately made an impact and is a contender for the NL MVP. He adds to the abundance of power the Dodgers have but he also fills a void the Dodgers have had for years — baserunning. He stole 10 bases and was able to cross home plate 47 times (fourth in MLB). With speedster Terrance Gore added to the series roster, LA will have multiple weapons to work with on the base path this postseason.

It’s no secret that Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger have struggled offensively in the postseason. Seager was the Dodgers’ most consistent hitter in 2020 (.307 avg) but only has a batting average of .203 in 118 October at-bats. Bellinger has been even worse in the postseason and did not have a good regular season. He only batted .239 in the 60-game season and possesses a dismal .178 average in the postseason.

By a wide margin, the Dodgers had the best team ERA in baseball at 3.02. While Clayton Kershaw had a stellar regular season as usual, it’s a guarantee that his 4.43 postseason ERA will haunt him once again.

Walker Buehler has dealt with injuries and hasn’t found his stride yet, but the Dodgers found gems in the filthy Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin. The two youngsters will most likely be assigned long-relief duties this postseason but could see a start if a series goes the full distance.

The bullpen has been stable for LA so far. Blake Treinen, Dylan Floro and Brusdar Graterol have been consistent and reliable. However, the Dodgers two biggest names out of the pen, Joe Kelly and Kenley Jansen will need to find consistency in order to back up their starters and the previous three mentioned. Kelly has limited the damage with his often-erratic pitches but Jansen has given up big leads this season and only has 11 saves in 27 appearances.

For the Brewers, they are still waiting on when 2018 MVP Christian Yelich will finally show up. Shockingly, Yelich only batted .205 in the 60-game season. While the home runs were there, the consistency was not.

Instead, former Seattle Mariner Daniel Vogelbach has made a huge impact for Milwaukee and is one of the main reasons the Brew Crew were able to make the run to the final wild card spot. Since joining the team, he has batted .328 with four HRs and 12 RBI.

While nothing elite, Milwaukee’s pitching staff has done a phenomenal job in limiting offense as they were third in strikeouts with 614. Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff have led the way in the rotation, with Burnes being a shutdown right-hander possessing a 2.11 ERA.

Milwaukee’s best pitching asset comes in the form of lefty reliever Josh Hader. Hader had a surprising 3.79 ERA but in the 2018 NLCS, he shut down the Dodgers — not allowing a single run in 7.2 innings pitched. He should meet expectations and help Milwaukee steal a game…or the series.

The Dodgers should be able to rake off of Milwaukee’s starters. The series will come down to whether Hader enters the game with a lead or not. If the Brewers can get that done, they can steal the series. The way I see it, Milwaukee will give suffering Dodger fans a scare but it won’t be enough to take the series.

Prediction: Dodgers in three

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