The five National League postseason teams are virtually set, with the only question is who represents the NL as the wild card team (as of now Dodgers Tickets for the first round home games start at $60.00 per ticket) and what clubs earn home field advantage in the first round. Two games currently separate the Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers for top overall record. The Dodgers are two games behind Atlanta but would have to finish a game ahead since the Braves hold the tie-breaker. The Dodgers are a game behind the Cardinals but hold the tie-breaker on St. Louis and only have to pick up a game on St. Louis. If the Dodgers can finish strong and take the top overall record in the National League they’ll face the winner of the NL Wildcard game which will feature the Pittsburgh Pirates versus the Cincinnati Reds. The two teams are currently in a dead heat with identical 89-67 records. Here’s a look at a potential Dodgers matchup versus Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Braves or Cardinals.
Cincinnati Reds : The Dodgers are 3-4 versus Cincinnati this season, including a three game sweep at the hands of the Reds in Cincinnati in early September. The Reds won all three games by one run in a series that was a prelude to a playoff type atmosphere. It marked the beginning of a Dodgers uneven stretch of play after their epic run to take control of the division. In the second game of the series the Dodgers bullpen was unable to hold the lead after a solid start by Zack Greinke, losing in ten innings. In the series finale the Dodgers had yet another solid start by Clayton Kershaw, but couldn’t solve the Reds offensively, eventually losing in the ninth inning. If LA does play Cincinnati they’ll have home field advantage and the luxury of starting both Kershaw and Greinke at Dodgers Stadium. In July the two clubs played a four-game series at Dodgers Stadium with the Dodgers taking three of four behind solid starting pitching. Offensively the Reds feature one of the elite players in baseball in first baseman Joey Votto. The Reds star is an on base machine, but has seen his power and RBI numbers drop this season. His numbers have picked up of late with a solid September, helping thrust the Reds into a hot streak. The big story for Cincinnati of late has been rookie phenom Billy Hamilton. The speedy September call-up holds the minor league record for stolen bases in a season and has helped electrify the Reds as a pinch runner in many late game victories. Hamilton has only batted six times this season but is 12 for 12 in stolen bases, with the majority in late game situations. Hamilton and Votto aside the Reds are a deep and talented bunch, but don’t have the starting pitching the Dodgers feature. If the two clubs do match up the Dodgers should be able to overcome the Reds due to Kershaw and Greinke.
Pittsburgh Pirates : The Pirates have finally put together a winning season after twenty years of losing baseball and are poised to at least play in the wildcard game in the National League. The Pirates have ridden a strong starting rotation to become one of the NL’s top clubs. Francisco Liriano, who struggled in recent years with Minnesota, is once again proving to be an left-handed ace with sixteen wins and a dominant 2.88 ERA. Jeff Locke, AJ Burnett, Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton round out one of the top rotations in all of baseball. The Dodgers haven’t seen the Pirates for a while, with both series between the two teams taking place early in the season. In the first week of the year the Dodgers swept the Pirates behind solid starts from Kershaw and Greinke. Later on in May the Dodgers visited Pittsburgh and lost two of three, with Jeff Locke shutting out the Dodgers in the opening game. Offensively the Pirates are led by star outfielder Andrew McCutchen and the powerful Pedro Alvarez, who has thirty-four home runs on the season. They’re a team built for playoff baseball and would be a strong opponent for the Dodgers. The Dodgers would likely be the favorites though due to their overall pitching depth and increasingly healthy lineup.
St. Louis Cardinals : The Cardinals are the most likely opening round series for the Dodgers. The Braves are likely to finish ahead of the Dodgers for the best overall record. Atlanta is two game up on the Dodgers as of Sunday and holds the tie breaker over Los Angeles due to the Braves winning the season series between the two clubs. The Dodgers are 4-3 versus the Cardinals this season, including winning three of four in St. Louis in early August. The Cardinals are built much like the Dodgers, with a deep and talented starting pitching staff and a group of timely hitters. Offensively the Cardinals don’t have any dominant power hitters like former star Albert Pujols, but instead boast a balanced lineups of consistent run producers led by second baseman Matt Carpenter, first baseman Allen Craig, outfielder Carlos Beltran and catcher Yadier Molina. The Cardinals offense is third in the NL in runs scored, fourth in batting average and third in on base percentage. Adam Wainwright is the Cardinals ace and leads a solid starting rotation, along with rookie Shelby Miller, and Lance Lynn. Edward Mujica has proven to be a dependable closer, filling in for injured stopper Jason Mott. A prospective Dodgers/Cardinals matchup should come down to the dual at the top of the rotation. Even with Wainwright the Dodgers have an edge with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. If the Dodgers two aces can establish themselves early the overall depth and superior bullpen of the Dodgers club should prevail.
Atlanta Braves: The Cardinals are currently a game behind the Braves for best overall record. If either the Cardinals catch and surpass Atlanta the Dodgers will head to Atlanta for the opening round series. The Dodgers struggled versus Atlanta this season, going 2-5, although the majority of the season series was played early in the year prior to the Dodgers amazing streak of winning baseball. The Braves have a solid but not dominant starting rotation, led by Julio Teheran, Mike Minor and Kris Medlen. All three starters are largely consistent but not dominant. Like versus the Cardinals the Dodgers should have an advantage in the starting rotation. Where the Braves are strong and may have an advantage over LA is in the bullpen, with dominant closer Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel is virtually unhittable with 49 saves this season and a 1.27 ERA. He has 94 strikeouts in just 64 innings pitched. Offensively the Braves have a lineup capable of putting up big run numbers, but also capable of stretches of inconsistency. Although they don’t have a player with 30 or more home runs the Braves lineup goes six or seven deep with solid power, especially with the now healthy Brian McCann, Evan Gattis and Jason Heyward. Like versus St. Louis the Dodgers should have an advantage in their starting rotation. If the Dodgers do face the Braves it will likely be in Atlanta where the key will be a quick start and an opening game victory. Amazingly Clayton Kershaw has not faced the Atlanta Braves in two seasons, a huge potential advantage for the Dodgers ace. The lefty’s last start versus Atlanta was an early season game in 2011 where he pitched 8.2 innings, giving up three earned runs. Zack Greinke faced the Braves once this season, pitching seven shutout innings in a May victory. The combination of the two dominant starters at the top of the rotation should send the Dodgers back to LA in a solid position to take the series.By:Chris Michaels