NLDS Preview: Who Steps Forward?

Dallas Keuchel gets the call in Game 1 of the NLDS for the Braves against the Cardinals (Photo credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports).

Okay, here we go again — it’s October baseball, the best there is for sports playoffs. Four teams who all took different roads to get here, and two matchups we’ve seen coming for a while now as the season played out. So who has the edge? Let’s take a closer look:

Cardinals vs. Braves

History tells us that the Cardinals should win this one. They’re the October mainstays, and Atlanta is the heartbreak sports city. After all, the Braves only got one title out of their 14-year division run from 1991-2005 (excluding 1994, of course). But there are a lot of reasons to like the Bravos here. Last year gave them a taste of the playoffs, and the Cards haven’t been in October since 2015. St. Louis strikes out a ton and has overachieved with its bullpen big time. There are legit questions about the Braves’ pitching staff, both starting and relief, but they have a closer who is familiar with these Cardinals in Mark Melancon. This series will be close, but I think Atlanta is a lot better than people realize. Pick: Braves in 5.

Nationals vs. Dodgers

Finally, the Nats won a playoff “series!” Kind of. Well, they advanced out of a playoff round for the first time ever. But now they get the Dodgers and their 106 wins. No Scherzer or Strasburg for Game 1. Something tells me it’s absolutely now or never for the Dodgers, even though they have plenty of young talent to stay relevant for a while. The Nats have major bullpen problems, and even though the Dodgers have question marks too, I trust the depth of their lineup more than the Nats’. The starting pitching is close, but as long as Hyun-Jin Ryu pitches like he did for most of the season, the Dodgers will move on to a fourth straight NLCS. Pick: Dodgers in 4.

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