The Atlanta Braves will stay on the west coast and open up a four game set with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday night. With the Braves at 86-44 and the Dodgers 83-49, the two best teams in the National League will be sharing a field.
Often times success in the postsesason is the result of getting hot at the right time and has no direct correlation to the performance throughout the 162 game regular season. While the Phillies could be the dark horse of National League teams to be a threat in October, the Braves and Dodgers remain the favorites to reach the NLCS.
Here are three reasons why this will happen.
1. MVP Caliber Players
It is not like each of these teams have players who have potential to win an MVP award one day. They have guys who have already done it or been in the conversation all season long.
The Dodgers have Mookie Betts who has been on a tear recently and former Braves player Freddie Freeman who performs every year.
Betts is hitting .316 this season with 37 homeruns and 94 RBIs. Freeman being Freeman is hitting .338 with 25 long balls and driven in 89. If he keeps his average where it is at, it will be the highest batting average in a season for Freeman besides the shortened 2020 season when he hit .341 and won MVP for Atlanta.
The Braves counter these players with an outfielder and first basemen of their own. Ronald Acuna Jr. has kept his average above .330, is one homerun shy of 30, driven in 79 runs from the lead off spot. That alone is impressive but he is also leading all of baseball with more than 60 stolen bases. We still have a whole month left in the season.
Matt Olson, who was assigned with replacing Freddie Freeman, has been in a battle with Shohei Ohtani all season long for the MLB lead in home runs. He currently trails Ohtani but is leading the National League in homeruns and RBIs.
So each of these two teams have a total of four legitimate MVP candidates that can carry an offense.
2. Cy Young Candidates
Both of these teams also have a Cy Young Award candidate. For the Braves it is youngster Spencer Strider who seems to break another record every time he takes the mound. The Dodger’s ace Clayton Kershaw is having a fantastic season in his 16th year of his MLB career.
Strider is 15-4 with a 3.46 ERA. While that ERA may seem a little high to earn a Cy Young Award, it should be factored in that he has struck out 236 batters in 153.1 innings.
Kershaw has a 12-4 record with a 2.48 ERA. His ERA in 2023 matches his career ERA, making him a lock for the Hall of Fame one day.
A major advantage both of these ball clubs will have heading into the postseason is experience. Most of these players have been under the pressure of October baseball and know what to expect.
Not only have a lot of these players played in the postseason but a big part of them have won a World Series. Both of those historic franchises have won a championship in the last 3 years. The Dodgers won it in 2020 and Atlanta followed it up with a World Series of their own in 2021.
With first pitch set for 10:10 p.m. ET, this series will be worth staying up late for. Get the popcorn ready and go Braves!