All season long, the Los Angeles Dodgers have been touted as the best team in the National League, but now they have to live up to that billing as they start their playoff run with a series against the Washington Nationals. Game 1 of the National League Division Series between the Dodgers and Nationals is Thursday night, with Los Angeles looking for a third straight trip to the World Series.
Both teams come in red-hot, with Los Angeles winning its last seven games of the regular season while Washington won its last eight, then rallied for a Wild Card Game victory over Milwaukee on Tuesday. It’s the first time the franchise has advanced a round in the playoffs, but it cost the Nationals a chance to start either of their aces — Max Scherzer or Stephen Strasburg — in this game since both pitched in the Wild Card Game.
The moneyline for this contest has the Washington Nationals +150 and the Los Angeles Dodgers -165. The over/under for the game has been set at 7.
The Nationals have three very good pitchers, so even without Scherzer or Strasburg available, they feel pretty good with Patrick Corbin taking the mound. The 30-year-old left-hander was 14-7 this season, with a 3.25 ERA and 238 strikeouts, good for fourth in the National League. This will be Corbin’s playoff debut, though he comes into the game having won his last three decisions. A scary thing is he’s coming off a no-decision against Cleveland last weekend in which he went just 4 1/3 innings — his shortest start since May — allowing six earned runs on seven hits, including three home runs. But he also was masterful in his only game against Los Angeles this season, going seven innings and shutting out the Dodgers on three hits in a win in early May at Dodger Stadium.
The best players make their names in the postseason, which is what the Nationals are hoping for from Anthony Rendon. Though he went 0-for-3 with a walk in the Wild Card win, Rendon has the potential to carry the Nationals when he gets hot, having led the team in batting average (.319), home runs (34) and RBI (126). Juan Soto, who had the game-winning hit in the Wild Card Game, also had 34 home runs this season to go with 110 RBI and is another dangerous hitter Washington would like to see get going.
Pick An Ace, Any Ace
Dave Roberts had a problem that most managers would love to have: Which All-Star pitcher should he start in Game 1? He opted for Walker Buehler over Clayton Kershaw or Hyun-Jin Ryu. The 25-year-old Buehler was 14-4 during the regular season with a 3.26 ERA and 215 strikeouts. Buehler started four games in the postseason last year, finishing with an 0-1 record but a 3.80 ERA. He faced Washington twice during the regular season, taking a loss in one game in which he allowed four earned runs and a no-decision in an outing where he threw seven innings of shutout ball.
What sets the Dodgers apart from most teams is the depth of their lineup, with players who can comes up with big hits and have plenty of playoff experience thanks to the team’s last two postseason runs. Leading the way in the hit parade is Cody Bellinger, who finished the season with a .305 batting average to go with 47 home runs and 115 RBI. He’s one of three Dodgers to finish with 35 or more home runs, being joined by Joc Pederson (36) and Max Muncy (35). Justin Turner only played nine games in September due to an ankle injury and some back troubles, but he plans to play in the opener, which the Dodgers would love to see considering he has a lifetime batting average of .313 in the playoffs.
Dodgers Take Opener
Although Washington has been playing great for a few months now, they are mostly in new territory with playoff success. The Dodgers, on the other hand, have been playing for six months to get to this point again, with a World Series title the only goal the team has had all season long. This won’t be a high-scoring affair, but the Washington bullpen will likely be called upon, and it hasn’t been good this season. I’m taking Los Angeles -165 to take the opener.