The Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers are set for a five-game, NL West showdown with a spot in the ALCS on the line. The Diamondbacks enter this series riding high off of a two-game Wild Card sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers with two gritty, come from behind victories. The Dodgers have dominated the NL West for the past decade and they won another division title with yet another 100-win season in 2023.
Both of these teams have starpower, as Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman will be top-four finishers in National League MVP voting, while Corbin Carroll is the runaway favorite for Rookie of the Year and Zac Gallen will finish in the top-five of Cy Young voting in the NL. Beyond the stars, the Dodgers aren’t as deep as they have been in the past, but the young Diamondbacks have versatility around the diamond and very few holes.
Game 1: Clayton Kershaw vs Merrill Kelly
The Diamondbacks didn’t have to use their #2 pitcher Merrill Kelly against Milwaukee, as he was scheduled to pitch a Game 3. Instead, he faces a familiar opponent who he has already seen four times this season. Most recently on August 29th, Kelly allowed twelve hits and seven runs while pitching five innings. In the three previous starts, however, Kelly allowed just two earned runs in 15.1 innings against them.
The Dodgers have the advantage of setting their rotation, as their ace Clayton Kershaw will get the ball in Game 1 for Dave Roberts. Kershaw had another excellent season in 2023, making 24 starts and pitching 131.2 innings of 2.46 ERA ball in his age-35 season. Kershaw has tweaked his style and repertoire over the years, changing from a primary fastball pitcher to one who favors his slider as he has lost his 95+ MPH velocity.
In Kershaw’s playoff career, he has just a 4.42 ERA and he has the reputation of choker across the MLB fanbase. Maybe the criticism is unfair, as Kershaw has a World Series ring and he pitched 2.93 ERA ball in the five playoff starts he made in 2020. Against the Diamondbacks in 2023, Kershaw had a 3.18 ERA in 17 IP across three starts. Kelly vs Kershaw is a great Game 1 matchup, and the Diamondbacks have a real shot to win this in a potentially low scoring game.
Game 2: Bobby Miller vs Zac Gallen
Zac Gallen should be ready to go for Game 2 of the NLDS following his Game 2 start to close out the Milwaukee in the Wild Card series. In that start, Gallen threw six innings of two-run ball and picked up the win as the Diamondbacks wrapped up their sweep. In the regular season, Gallen was the Diamondbacks’ ace and one of the contenders for NL Cy Young.
Bobby Miller, on the other hand, is a rookie pitcher who the Dodgers called upon for 22 starts in 2023, as he pitched to a 3.76 ERA and 3.51 FIP in 124.1 IP. Miller really seemed to find himself after a slow start, as he had a 3.36 ERA, 3.42 FIP, and 3.63 xFIP in his last 14 starts. Miller may be overshadowed by his team’s success or the success of other NL rookies, but his high velocity four-seamer/sinker combo has paired well with a solid curveball as a putaway pitch.
Miller faced the Diamondbacks twice in August, pitching 12 innings of four-run ball in two Dodgers wins. In Gallen’s two starts against the Dodgers, he gave up 11 runs in 10 innings. The outcome of Game 2 will come down to whether or not Zac Gallen can adjust to this Dodgers’ lineup, or if the Arizona hitters see Bobby Miller better the 3rd time around.
Game 3: Lance Lynn vs Brandon Pfaadt
The Dodgers acquired Lance Lynn at the deadline for one specific reason. They were lacking depth in their rotation due to some injuries and off-the-field issues, and Lance Lynn would be a reliable option to fill out the playoff rotation. After getting moved to the Dodgers at the deadline, Lynn had a 4.36 ERA and 6.16 FIP in 11 starts.
The Diamondbacks clearly trust Brandon Pfaadt, as they gave him the ball in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series against the Brewers. Pfaadt got only eight outs while allowing three earned runs before the bullpen took over and won the game. Pfaadt saw the Dodgers twice in 2023, throwing 8.2 innings of nine earned run ball across those two starts.
Game 4: Ryan Pepiot vs Ryne Nelson
Game 5: Clayton Kershaw vs Merrill Kelly
If need be, it’s not impossible that Dave Roberts goes back to Kershaw or Torey Lovullo goes back to Merrill Kelly in this spot on short rest. The Dodgers rotation is thinned out due to injuries and off-field misconduct, so they’ll have to rely on another rookie Ryan Pepiot in Game 4 of the series. As for Game 5, if necessary, the Game 1 starters could return on normal rest, so all the same trends apply there.
MLB Playoff Betting: Take the Dodgers -1.5 Games Against Arizona (+120 on DraftKings)
While the Dodgers aren’t as deep as they usually are, especially on the mound, it shouldn’t come back to hurt them quite yet as they should make quick work of these Arizona Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks are young, perhaps a year ahead of schedule. Despite Clayton Kershaw’s playoff woes and a questionable back-end of the rotation, the Dodgers should be able to take out the Diamondbacks in a sweep or a four-game set.Main image credit Embed from Getty Images