Clayton Kershaw has a history of choking in the playoffs in his career. Last night, the Dodgers sent him to the mound to deliver them a victory in a huge spot, in game four of the National League Championship Series, against the Atlanta Braves. Kershaw was scratched in game two of this series with back spasms, and despite clearly not being at 100% and having his long history of pitching poorly in the postseason, the Dodgers were still big betting favorites.
And to be honest, I thought the Dodgers were still the side to back, despite the question marks on Kershaw. The Braves were starting a kid with zero playoff experience, that was used exclusivity as a mop-up guy in the regular season. It looked like the Braves were willing to punt game four to set themselves up for the rest of the series and didn’t mind letting the Dodgers tie the series up. It was a spot where the Braves were seemingly willing to lose a battle to help win the war.
— MLB (@MLB) October 16, 2020
But playoff Kershaw reared his ugly head once again, as he hit a brick wall in the sixth inning. On the day, Kershaw finished with five innings pitched, allowing four earned runs. He left the bullpen in a jam, and the Braves smashed LA for six runs in the frame and blew the game wide open. By the time the smoke cleared, the Braves racked up ten runs on the night and blew the Dodgers out 10-2.
With the win, Atlanta is now just one game away from a trip to the World Series, and the Dodgers are left scratching their heads, wondering what it will take to get back into this series and extend their season. For our free daily betting pick, we will break down all of the action in game five of the National League Championship Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Atlanta Braves!
Los Angeles Dodgers (1-3) at Atlanta Braves (3-1)
The Atlanta Braves are looking to advance to their first World Series since 1999 tonight, in game five of the National League Championship Series. Atlanta has taken three of the first four games of this series and are now just a game away from the Fall Classic. For LA, the Dodgers were baseball’s top team in the regular season and are trying to avoid yet another postseason that ends in heartbreak.
— MLB (@MLB) October 16, 2020
Starting tonight for the Dodgers is Dustin May (1-0 0.00 ERA). The Braves have yet to name a starter. The game total over/under is set at nine and a half runs. The Dodgers are -200 betting favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 6:08 PM PST from Globe Life Park in Arlington.
Los Angeles Dodgers
After exploding for fifteen runs in game three of the NLCS, it seemed like a forgone conclusion that the Dodgers were going to come roaring back in this series and advance to yet another World Series. But I guess somebody forgot to tell the Braves that, as Atlanta put a beating on the Dodgers yesterday in game four, and now the Dodgers are on the brink of elimination. To make matters worse for LA, they won’t have Kershaw available for the rest of this series, although after seeing him pitch last night, that might not be all that bad of a thing, and they are going to have to find someone to step up for them on the mound.
While there are question marks on the mound for LA, what I can’t figure out, is how the Dodgers weren’t able to hit Braves starter Bryse Wilson, yesterday. Wilson had only seven career MLB starts entering play yesterday, and his ERA was nearly six runs. The kid hadn’t pitched at any point in the postseason for Atlanta, and it should have been a spot where LA thrived. Instead, they managed just one hit off the guy in six innings. If the Braves go on to win the World Series, this game four start from Wilson will forever be remembered in Braves history as a moment that helped make it happen.
Dustin May (1-0 0.00 ERA)
There might not be a pitcher in the game that has more electric stuff than Dodgers starter Dustin May. May throws fire and his fastball is regularly clocked at faster than 100-MPH. The Dodgers have used May out of the bullpen in the playoffs, and the still just 22-year old, has been very good. In three postseason appearances this year, May has worked 4.2 innings, allowing no runs on only one hit, while striking out six.
While the Dodgers have been using May in relief in this postseason, he is normally a starting pitcher. He made ten regular season starts for LA this year and posted strong results with a 3-1 record and a 2.57 ERA. In his fifteen total appearances this season, the Dodgers are 11-4, and LA needs one more big performance out of him tonight to keep their season alive.
It has been pretty shocking how little respect the Atlanta Braves have been getting in this series. They came into the series as one of the best teams in the National League and didn’t lose a single game in either of their playoff series before matching up with the Dodgers.
Even after they won the first two games of this series, to run their postseason record to a sterling 7-0, many people still doubted them. When the Dodgers came roaring back in game three, to snap the Braves postseason unbeaten streak, everyone saw that as the end of the Braves season, and expected them to collapse and let LA run them over on their way to the World Series.
I suppose I was guilty of that yesterday as well, as I thought LA was going to find a way to win the game. But coming into this series, I was clear that I saw this as a much more competitive series than most people did, and I actually backed the Braves in both games one and two, cashing tickets in both contests. This team is loaded with talent, and they can play with any team in the game. Maybe they win this series, or maybe the Dodgers come back to steal it away, but either way, the Braves have made it known that they are a force to be reckoned with in the National League.
TBD (0-0 0.00 ERA)
The Braves have yet to announce their starter in this game, and it is almost certainly going to be an opener rather than an actual starter. This seven games in seven days series has forced team’s hands to get creative on the mound, and with the Braves already announcing Max Fried as their game six starter, they don’t really have any other direction to go tonight, other than throwing a bullpen arm on the mound to start.
So, while we don’t know which name to point at as the starter, you can expect it to be a reliever, and for the Braves to keep their best starters, Max Fried and Ian Anderson, for a potential game six or game seven, if needed.
Who Do I Like?
The Braves tried to punt game four, and playoff Kershaw spoiled the party and gave them the game anyway. Now that they know they only have to win one of the next three games, I would expect them to make a similar move tonight and focus less on this game and more on setting up for games six and seven. The Braves haven’t been a team that are accustomed to using an opener, and I am not exactly sure how they plan to navigate that, but don’t be shocked to see guys like Huascar Ynoa or Tyler Matzek called upon to eat up some innings.
If this game is close, I would expect Atlanta to try and push hard for the win. This won’t be a spot where they are intentionally trying to lose the game by any means. And if they see a chance to win and finish off the Dodgers tonight, they are going to go for it. But I just don’t see Atlanta bankrupting the rest of this series, to try and win this game. They want to win, but they know they don’t need to win, there is a difference there.
I know I just talked about how disrespected the Braves have been in this series, but I am going to add to that disrespect and bet against them in this game. Dustin May is filthy, and the Dodgers know that they have to win this game. This team is full of experienced veterans that know how to win games in the postseason, and I think that they will find a way to gut it out and get the job done tonight.
The Braves are going to use a handful of relievers to get them through this game, and if they fall behind early, I wouldn’t expect that any of their best bullpen arms are going to take the mound. That means guys like Mark Melancon and Will Smith are going to be watching this one from the bullpen, not actually pitching. I see the Dodgers taking advantage of that dynamic and winning this game. Give me the Los Angeles Dodgers tonight as big favorites, as they set up a game six tomorrow night!