Keys to Beating the Braves in the NLCS
This is not going to be an easy series for the Dodgers. I know I said that about the Padres, but this Braves team is better and hotter right now. They, like the Dodgers, haven't lost a game this postseason and have thrown shutouts in the 4/5 of their games this postseason. Obviously, their NLDS opponent, the Marlins, was far worse than the Padres, whom the Dodgers faced, but this Braves team is good.
They are, however, top heavy. Their lineup is anchored by their top 4 hitters, Acuña, Freeman, Ozuna, and D'Arnaud. Swanson, Duvall, and Riley are also not necessarily easy outs and guys the Dodgers have to be careful with. Their lineup, however, hasn't been clicking a ton with Acuña and Freeman both struggling so far through the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Their rotation is also extremely top heavy, with Max Freid and Ian Anderison both having fantastic seasons. However, after them, Game 3 starter Kyle Wright is mediocre and the next starters in the rotation are basically question marks, which is not ideal for a 7 game series with no off-days. The Braves bullpen has been very solid and similar to the Dodgers' in that there isn't one dominant force but instead a plethora of quality options. They do, however, walk a lot of batters, so that should benefit the Dodgers.
Basically, the Dodgers have to win half the games that Fried and Anderson start. Presumably thats 2 of Game 1,2, 6, and 7. Honestly, I think the Dodgers take this series in 5 or 6 based off how they've been playing, but it's very likely that they'll look horrible against Fried and Anderson before getting them out of the game in the 5th or 6th innings, like they did with Brandon Woodruff. Doing so will force the Braves to use their bullpen more than they want to before the games in which their starters are questionable.
I think the middle of this series is where the Dodgers will really start to separate themselves from the Braves, even though I do think that the Dodgers will win pretty much every game, they just might be closer when Fried and Anderson start.
Kershaw and Buehler are going games 1 and 2 along with probably games 6 and 7 (if needed), and I'm expecting both of them to be very good, as Buehler's stuff has been great and I think he should be able to fix his command issues from his last start. He's not on a pitch count, as Roberts said he should be able to throw 100. Kershaw, similarly, should be able to benefit from an aggressive Braves lineup that hasn't seen him with his increased velocity.
For games 3,4, and 5 it'll be some combination of Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May, and Julio Urias. I wouldn't be surprised to see May pitch only a few innings in a bullpen game 5 because I think the Dodgers believe (rightly so) that he's more valuable for a few innings in more games than 5-6 in Game 5.
As long as the Dodgers stick to their offensive approach of passing the baton on hitting well with RISP, I think that they're in very, very good shape.