Braves @ Dodgers NLCS Game 1: Fried vs. Buehler

The Atlanta Braves (5-0) travel to Arlington for game one of the NLCS in Globe Life Field, “on the road” against the Los Angeles Dodgers (5-0). Dustin wrote a preview of the entire series, and instead of repeating the same things he already said, you can read his preview right here. Walker Buehler will once again take the mound in game one for the Dodgers, as will Max Fried for the Braves.

5:08 P.M. Arlington
CF Acuña Jr. RF Betts
1B Freeman (L) SS Seager (L)
DH Ozuna 3B Turner
C d’Arnaud 1B Muncy (L)
2B Albies (S) C Smith
SS Swanson CF Bellinger (L)
LF Duvall DH Pollock
RF Markakis (L) 2B Hernández
3B Riley LF Taylor
P Fried (L) P Buehler (R)

Aside from Enrique Hernandez making his first start of the season against the left-handed Fried, not much has changed within the Dodgers lineup. Hernandez is hitless this postseason through five at bats with three strikeouts and has reached base once via hit by pitch. Again, go back and read the NLCS preview Dustin wrote — to summarize, the Braves have a very strong lineup, one of the only in baseball that can nearly match that of the Dodgers. Their stars are Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuna Jr., and Marcell Ozuna. They’ve also had significant contribution from Travis d’Arnaud, who had all of one plate appearance for the Dodgers in 2019. The good news is that with as good as the Braves offense is, their lineup is a little bit on the top heavy side compared to that of the Dodgers. Additionally, one difference between the two offenses is that among these stars, the Braves have higher strikeout rates than that of the Dodgers outside of Freeman at 14.3%. The next three, Ozuna (22.5%), Acuña Jr. (29.7%), and d’Arnaud (27.2%) all have higher strikeout rates than those of the Dodgers. Compare that to Will Smith (16.1%), Mookie Betts (15.4%), Corey Seager (15.9%), and Justin Turner (14.9%). As we’ve seen, putting the ball in play has been extremely important in this park, and the Dodgers managed to get the idea, scoring 23 runs over three games against the Padres with just one home run — a solo shot by Cody Bellinger in game two.

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Buehler has thrown just four innings in both his postseason starts so far, with his command limiting how deep he can pitch into games instead of his blister. His 95 pitches thrown in his last start were the most of his entire 2020 season. If he’s comfortable and his command is better, Buehler seems like he can go deep enough into the game that the team wouldn’t need to bring in a long reliever such as Dustin May to bridge the gap towards the end of the game. Overall, Buehler has gone a total of eight innings, allowing three earned runs on just five hits but the real issue has been the six walks. Besides that he’s been impressive, featuring sixteen strikeouts over those eight innings.

Fried has also made two starts in the 2020 postseason, once against the Reds who looked like they were swinging with their eyes closed when they got runners on, and once against the Marlins. He allowed just six hits against the Reds over seven innings without issuing a walk, but struggled a little bit against the Marlins. He allowed four earned runs on six hits over just four innings in his game one start against them. He’ll need to be better than that to beat the Dodgers.

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Nearly all of the Dodgers pitchers have thrown off this mound in Arlington where the Braves have not, and they’ve also played three full games of defense on this “synthetic grass”. I don’t know how advantageous this is, but I’d say it counts for something. The Dodgers offensive starters have also played three games with most players getting twelve or more plate appearances with the batter’s eye of this field.

The Dodgers have a deeper lineup, bullpen, and starting rotation. Anything can happen in baseball and they need to take these Braves seriously. They might be the best remaining team in the playoffs.

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In other news,

The Los Angeles Lakers won the 2020 NBA finals last night by a score of 106-93.

I’m not going to say anything, but look up which teams won the NBA Finals and which team won the World Series in 1988.

MLB has essentially prioritized money over complete safety whilst allowing over 10,000 fans to attend these games. That’s pretty on brand by MLB. Regardless, it’s happening and if you or someone you know is going, just be safe.

Although Alanna does have a point that nobody has denied, this game isn’t the same without fans and a change in the energy of the environment may be a boost for some of these guys.

Dave Roberts has seemingly shifted to the idea that other relievers are available in high-leverage situations besides Kenley Jansen.

That’s promising because guys like Jake McGee need to pitch in those situations. McGee was the most dominant “power pitcher” the Dodgers had this season and they’ll need him this series.

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First pitch is at 5:08 PT on FOX.

About Allan Yamashige

Allan Yamashige
Just a guy living in Thousand Oaks, CA who happens to love the Dodgers and statistics. Hated baseball practice as a kid, but writing about adults doing baseball is alright.