The Dodgers already beat the toughest opponent they will face this October, but that doesn’t mean the remaining path is easy. Next up is the Braves in a second straight National League Championship Series, but also rebounding after “pouring everything we could” into the NLDS.
It’s natural to expect some sort of a letdown after the emotional high and exhausting five-game battle with the 107-win Giants, though the Dodgers insist that won’t be the case.
“I think that the variable of a letdown emotionally, the moment getting too big for a potential player, I do believe that — I have all the confidence that we wouldn’t be a victim of that,” manager Dave Roberts said Friday. “We can prepare all we can for a particular game, but knowing that I don’t have to worry about that is a huge kind of confidence. It just gives me added confidence in our guys.”
“Nothing’s taken lightly, nothing’s taken for granted,” third baseman Justin Turner told reporters in Atlanta on Friday. “We celebrate each one of those steps that we take, and enjoy it in that moment, then the next day it’s time to prepare for whatever’s in front of us next.”
At this point, the Dodgers have earned the faith to believe them, or at least not be worried should they fall behind. Under Roberts, Los Angeles is 10-4 in elimination games, including winning each of their last six such games.
“To look at how daunting that was, against a very good ball club in the Braves, and to know that essentially everything has to go your way to win three in a row,” Roberts explained, “It’s probably the most proud I’ve been of a team and an organization, staff, to kind of stick together and find a way to win one game each night, to come out the other side.”
The Dodgers find themselves on the other side of a grueling NLDS, and back in their fifth NLCS in six years, despite hitting just .239/.295/.358, and averaging 3.5 runs per game in this postseason, scoring more than three runs only twice in six games so far in the playoffs.
But they are still standing thanks to a dominant pitching staff that held the Cardinals and Giants to hit a combined .178/.225/.277, averaging 1.8 runs per game.
Atlanta’s success this postseason has also been pitching-heavy, holding Milwaukee to six runs in four games in the NLDS. The Braves are hitting .234/.315/.383 in the early going, driven by a highly-productive infield. Atlanta’s rebuilt outfield will be without Jorge Soler for at least part of the NLCS, while on the COVID-19 injured list.
Only three of 10 MLB playoff teams have an OPS above .700 this postseason, with the top two teams currently playing in the ALCS. MLB as a whole is hitting just .248/.309/.392 this postseason.
Perhaps getting the offense going will go a long way in determining who wins this NLCS.
NLCS Game 1 info
Teams: Dodgers (106-56) at Braves (88-73)
Location: Truist Park, Atlanta
Time: 5:08 p.m.