One of the most storied postseason franchises in Major League Baseball history takes on a ballclub with one World Series berth in the 2018 NLCS.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are looking to return to the World Series for the second straight season for a potential rematch against the Houston Astros, while the Milwaukee Brewers are trying to ride a hot streak into the Fall Classic.
Both teams are more than capable of taking hold of the series and not letting go, but the Dodgers have the perceived edge because of the number of postseason games they've played over the last few years.
The NLCS starts Friday with Clayton Kershaw opposing Gio Gonzalez at Miller Park.
All times ET.
Game 1: Friday, October 12 at Milwaukee (8:09 p.m., FS1)
Game 2: Saturday, October 13 at Milwaukee (4:09 p.m., Fox)
Game 3: Monday, October 15 at Los Angeles (7:39 p.m., FS1)
Game 4: Tuesday, October 16 at Los Angeles (9:09 p.m., FS1)
Game 5: Wednesday, October 17 at Los Angeles (5:05 p.m., FS1)*
Game 6: Friday, October 19 at Milwaukee (8:39 p.m., FS1)*
Game 7: Saturday, October 20 at Milwaukee (9:09 p.m., FS1)*
Odds (via OddsShark)
Los Angeles (-165; Bet $165 to win $100)
Milwaukee (+135; Bet $100 to win $135)
Game 1 Odds
Los Angeles (-160)
Hader Helps Brewers Earn Advantage On the Road
Milwaukee holds an advantage in the bullpen because of Josh Hader.
The dynamic left-hander was arguably the best reliever in baseball during the regular season, and he'll continue to make a difference on the mound in the NLCS, especially at Dodger Stadium.
In 67.2 innings on the road in his career, Hader is 5-2 with a 2.13 ERA, which is 0.36 better than the ERA he's put up at Miller Park over 61.1 innings.
Hader's given up 16 earned runs and struck out 115 batters on the road, so that eliminates the potential of Dodger Stadium intimidating him.
In order to win the series, the Brewers must win at least one game in Los Angeles, and with Clayton Kershaw throwing in Game 1 for the Dodgers, the NL Central champion might be forced to win twice on the road.
If Game 3 starter Jhoulys Chacin is able to get through five or six innings, he'll turn the ball over to the bullpen in a good position to close out the game.
The same has to be expected out of whichever pitcher toes the rubber for the Brewers in Games 4 and 5.
If the Milwaukee starters are able to give Hader an opportunity to close out a game, he should be able to finish the job and set the Brewers up to clinch a World Series berth at home in Game 6.
Machado Further Increases Value With Strong NLCS
Manny Machado's potential suitors in the free-agent market will have their eyes fully focused on the Dodgers shortstop during the NLCS.
The former Baltimore player mashed a pair of home runs and drove in six runs during the NLDS victory over the Atlanta Braves, and he is expected to put up better numbers in the NLCS in order to give the Dodgers an opportunity to win the series in Milwaukee.
In 66 regular-season games with the Dodgers, Machado produced 13 home runs and 42 RBI in 296 plate appearances.
Regardless of what the Dodgers do in the NLCS, Machado will stand out among the players in the team's lineup and boost his value on the market a bit higher than the enormous price he's going to cost in the offseason.
Although Machado's proved himself throughout the regular season with the Orioles and Dodgers, he hasn't gained a ton of postseason experience, as he played in seven playoff games during his time in Baltimore.
By hitting a few home runs and delivering hits in clutch situations, Machado will give his future employers a glimpse into what he's capable of in the postseason while pushing the Dodgers close to their second consecutive World Series appearance.
Series Prediction: Milwaukee in 6
Milwaukee doesn't have the star power in its rotation like Los Angeles, but it possesses a bullpen that few lineups can touch.
If the Brewers starters can produce outings of five or six innings and limit the Dodgers to two or three runs, the bullpen should be able to finish off victories.
The Brewers also have the firepower in their lineup to outhit the Dodgers in a shootout, which will happen at least once during the NLCS.
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Statistics obtained from Baseball Reference