- El Niño ‘97
Since I haven’t been able to say the Miami Marlins are playing in the NLDS for the past 17 years, let’s go ahead and start the preview with the self-proclaimed “Bottom Feeders”. The Fish were a huge surprise throughout this entire shortened season with their team of misfits, not to mention dealing with the COVID outbreak that took out 18 players just one series into their season.
Don Mattingly has done a fantastic job piecing this 60-game season together and should be the front runner to win the NL Manager of the Year award. Miami has had one clear strength this season, their starting rotation. Since rejoining the team after contracting COVID-19, Sandy Alcantara has dazzled as the Marlins clear ace. Meanwhile, Pablo López put together his most consistent season as a big leaguer yet.
But, as we saw in Game 2 of the Cubs series, the addition of Sixto Sanchez has truly made this pitching staff one of the best in baseball. Having these three arms heading into the NLDS against the Braves (5 game series), should have bettors seeing some exceptional value if you’re willing to ride with the Fish.
In the Wild Card series, the Marlins were +150 with Alcantara toeing the slab and +180 with rookie sensation Sixto on the hill. A huge blow to the Marlins offense is losing newly acquired Starling Marte after he was hit on his left hand causing a non-displaced fracture on the fifth metacarpal. It looks like he will be out for most, if not all of the NLDS.
Look for a trio of outfielders encompassing Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison & Magneurius Sierra to platoon as the CF options and wreak havoc on the base paths in the process. All in all, it’s a long shot for the Marlins to move on to the NLCS against a Braves team that has one of, if not the top offenses in baseball. There is, however, one potential scenario I see playing out that may favor the Marlins this series (see Braves preview). Just don’t be surprised if they steal 1 or 2 games this series due to a couple of stellar pitching performances and some timely hitting that has propelled them into the playoffs.
The Atlanta Braves will have their hands full facing a familiar foe in the Marlins on their road back to the NLCS. There are no concerns in regards to their offensive prowess, with the young stud in CF Ronald Acuña Jr. leading the charge.
During the Wild Card series, the 22 year old superstar batted .364 with a .909 OPS, but that may slow down a bit this series. Acuña is batting a mere .192 against the Marlins top pitching trio in his career (5 for 26). Don’t let that worry you too much… the Braves this season have annihilated Marlins pitching, hitting .280, including an absolute boat race to the tune of 29 runs scored on September 9th.
However, what Braves series bettors should be worried about is the pitching depth in the rotation. Behind the sensational Max Fried and young gun Ian Anderson, the Braves are left with a struggling Kyle Wright who holds a 5.21 ERA and an abysmal 1.55 WHIP this season over 8 starts. Game 4, if necessary, would be a “bullpen game” with Josh Tomlin being the most likely candidate to start it off. If the Marlins can steal one of the first two games before getting to Kyle Wright, there’s a decent chance they ride Sixto into a 2-1 series lead going into the aforementioned “bullpen game”.
The Braves are going to rely heavily on their lineup to carry this team to their ultimate goal of winning a World Series and hope their pitching doesn’t falter down the stretch as it has in previous series.
LAD vs. SD
The LA Dodgers and San Diego Padres will be facing off in the second series of the NLDS. I am going to combine these two previews because I see this series being pretty lopsided in the Dodgers favor.
The Padres are looking like they will go into this series without their top two starters Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger. Both have experienced arm issues and even if they are somehow able to throw any innings this series, I doubt they will be anywhere near 100%. The biggest let down for the Padres this year is thinking they could rely on Paddack this to take the next step in his young career and it just hasn’t happened. Chris was absolutely shelled in his first career postseason outing by a below average offense in the St. Louis Cardinals, giving up 6 earned runs in just 2.1 innings of work.
Of course, Slam Diego is still hot, being led by the new face of baseball Fernando Tatis and a Manny Machado who has reverted back to his former MVP caliber ways. I will say this lineup is deeper than most in the MLB but they are running into the deepest pitching rotation in baseball, which I believe can slow the Pads down enough to win the series.
Walker Buehler is starting to regain his stamina and composure after an up and down regular season that included nagging blister issues. Clayton Kershaw was lights out last series against a struggling Brewers team, striking out 13 over 8 innings and giving up 0 runs. We have to remember this is midseason form Kershaw with the shortened season, so expect him to have plenty left in the tank to go deep into ball games throughout these playoffs. Having Dustin May, Julio Urias and Tony Gonsolin at their disposal, coming out of the bullpen or as potential starters, is the biggest advantage of the series by far. Not to mention, the Dodgers have former MVP’s Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts on their roster.
I see this series going four games MAX and the Dodgers coasting to yet another NLCS appearance with their abundance of riches, primed and ready to make a championship run.