Due to the arrangement of the postseason schedule, the two losing teams from Game 1 of the National League Division Series had over 24 hours to contemplate their defeat. Interestingly, these two teams were the top seeds in the NL and managed to skip the Wild Card Series.
Can these teams level the series? Let’s delve into the major narratives surrounding each team in the NLDS games on Monday.
Phillies at Braves
Phillies lead 1-0
Zack Wheeler vs. Max Fried
6:07 p.m. ET, TBS
Phillies: Can Zack Wheeler silence the Braves’ bats?
It was truly unusual to witness the Braves’ powerful offense, known for its excellence over the past 25 years, being completely shut down by seven Phillies pitchers who weren’t even their star pitchers. However, the Braves will now face those two formidable pitchers, Wheeler and Nola.
Wheeler will be the first to challenge the Braves. He has been exceptional in his last four starts, allowing only six earned runs in 23 2/3 innings. In fact, Wheeler has been the Phillies’ most reliable and dominant postseason starter throughout his time in Philadelphia. With a career 2.55 ERA in seven playoff starts for the Phillies, Wheeler could potentially give them a significant advantage in this series. Even though he lost to the Braves in Game 2 of last year’s NLDS, he pitched well, surrendering only three runs in six innings. If he performs as he did in the Wild Card Series against the Marlins or maintains his recent form, the Phillies could establish a commanding lead.
Braves: Is Max Fried prepared for this challenge?
Fried, who has quietly been one of the league’s top pitchers for the past few years, made his first start in three months after recovering from an elbow issue on August 4. He excelled in his next eight starts, seemingly becoming another ace for the Braves alongside their formidable lineup. However, a blister issue emerged. After the blister on his left index finger flared up during a September 21 victory over the Nationals, Fried hasn’t pitched since. Last Tuesday, he threw five innings in a simulated game and expressed satisfaction with keeping his arm active and competing. While this is a positive development, it may not be as reassuring as the Braves would like, especially considering their position at 1-0 down at home. Fried needs to recapture his best form to prevent the Braves from facing the brink of elimination.
D-backs at Dodgers
D-backs lead 1-0
Zac Gallen vs. Bobby Miller
9:07 p.m. ET, TBS
D-backs: Can they capitalize on their advantageous position?
Prior to Game 1, if you asked a D-backs fan about their desired outcome, they would have wanted to knock out Clayton Kershaw early, force the Dodgers to use multiple relievers, reserve key relievers for later games, and rely on Zac Gallen to seal the deal in Game 2. They achieved all of those objectives, except for the final one, which now rests on Gallen’s shoulders.
Gallen is arguably one of the best starters in the postseason, and despite enduring a couple of rough starts in September, he was a top contender for the NL Cy Young Award. He demonstrated his excellence in his last three starts, including a dominant performance in the Wild Card Series against the Brewers. If necessary, the schedule positions him to pitch the decisive Game 5 in this series. However, if Gallen, the most outstanding pitcher on either team, performs exceptionally well, the D-backs may not even require a Game 5, and instead contemplate starting him in Game 1 of the NLCS.
Dodgers: Can they prevent the situation from spiraling out of control?
Let’s be clear right from the start: the Dodgers’ success over the past decade has been extraordinary. They last missed the playoffs in 2012, when Jamie Moyer was still pitching, and he is about to turn 61 years old. Their consistent achievements are enviable and should not be underestimated. However, if they are eliminated from the NLDS for the second consecutive year by an inferior NL West team, their regular-season accomplishments will once again fade away, and they will further solidify their reputation as a dynasty that struggles in October. Although their 2020 title may have been more challenging to win than a typical season, history will likely not acknowledge those nuances.
Game 1 was a rare disaster for the Dodgers, and recovering from it won’t be easy, particularly with their mounting rotation issues after Kershaw’s ineffective outing. Bobby Miller, the Game 2 starter, was only 13 years old when the Dodgers’ ongoing postseason streak began. While it’s not his fault that the Dodgers are under immense pressure on Monday night, he will undoubtedly feel its weight.
David Rodriguez brings the excitement of Major League Baseball to readers. With a deep appreciation for America’s pastime, he covers the latest MLB news, scores, and player achievements, keeping fans up to date with their favorite teams and players.