NLDS Preview: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers are the favorite to beat their NL West foe in the NLDS, but the Diamondbacks are riding some momentum to make this a tough series.

Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 21: Mookie Betts #50 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates his solo homerun with Freddie Freeman #5, to trail the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-1, during the fourth inning at Dodger Stadium on September 21, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The Diamondbacks almost stunningly went into American Family Fields in Milwaukee and swept the Brewers in the short best-of-three Wild Card Series. Their reward? A date with the rival, 100-win Dodgers in the NLDS.

These two met in the 2017 NLDS and the Dodgers took care of business by sweeping their NL West counterpart. This time around, the Diamondbacks will look for a different result.

The Dodgers are the better team in this spot, but they will not take the Diamondbacks lightly. They have seen plenty of each other this season playing in the same division, and the Dodgers know what can happen to the “better” team in a short series — see NLDS last season.

The Dodgers will be well-rested after their first round bye, but the Diamondbacks will be carrying their Wild Card Series upset win momentum into a series that has a ton of intrigue.

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The Season Series (Dodgers Won 8-5)

The Dodgers were the better team during the regular season, and they proved it during the head-to-head matchups, winning eight of the 13 games. The Diamondbacks won five of the first eight matchups, but the Dodgers won the final five games between the two teams.

Overall, the Dodgers outscored the Diamondbacks in the 13 games, 72-47.

March 30 – April 2 (Tied 2-2)

  • March 30: LAD 8, ARI 2
  • March 31: ARI 2, LAD 1
  • April 1: LAD 10, ARI 1
  • April 2: ARI 2, LAD 1

April 6 – April 9 (ARI wins 3-1)

  • April 6: LAD 5, ARI 2
  • April 7: ARI 6, LAD 3
  • April 8: ARI 12, LAD 8
  • April 9: ARI 11, LAD 6

August 8 – August 9 (LAD wins 2-0)

  • August 8: LAD 5, ARI 4
  • August 9: LAD 2, ARI 0

August 28 – August 30 (LAD wins 3-0)

  • August 28: LAD 7, ARI 4
  • August 29: LAD 9, ARI 1
  • August 30: LAD 7, ARI 0

NLDS – Projected Pitching Matchups

NLDS Game One: Merrill Kelly vs. Clayton Kershaw

Saturday, October 7 at 6:20 p.m. ET

Clayton Kershaw has made three starts against the Diamondbacks this season. He is also dealing with a bit of a nagging shoulder injury. In classic Kershaw fashion, though, he will be ready to go for Game One. How long in the game he lasts, however, is left to be seen.

Merrill Kelly has put together a nice season, but has made four starts against the Dodgers and has struggled. Through 20.1 innings of work, the Dodgers tallied nine earned runs, 27 hits and 13 walks against the righty. He will need to right the ship to get a good result in Game One.

With Kelly’s struggles against the Dodgers, regardless of how long Kershaw lasts in the game, the Dodgers have to be favorites in Game One.

NLDS Game Two: Zac Gallen vs. Bobby Miller

Monday, October 9 at 6:07 p.m. ET

Torey Lovullo has not yet announced Zac Gallen as his Game Two starter, but you figure with six days between his last start and Game Two, Gallen will be the likely starter for the Diamondbacks here. Roberts has not currently named any of his starters past Kershaw in this series, but Miller has all but earned the Game Two nod after his terrific rookie season.

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Gallen has been a bona fide ace in 2023 and will likely finish in the top five of National League Cy Young voting. He is also coming off a gutsy Game Two start against the Brewers and will look to keep that momentum going in a pivotol Game Two against the Dodgers.

Miller is the likely candidate to start Game Two. He has all the talent in the world, but will need to keep his emotions in check in his first career playoff start.

With Gallen on the bump, the Diamondbacks have the starting pitching advantage in Game Two.

NLDS Game Three: Brandon Pfaadt vs. Lance Lynn/Ryan Pepiot

Wednesday, October 11 (Time TBD)

Provided Lovullo gives Pfaadt another chance after his tightrope act against the Brewers in Game One of the National League Wild Card, he will likely start Game Three for the Snakes. He’s struggled the majority of the season, but has shown flashes of his top pitching prospect makeup.

Lance Lynn was put on the bereavement list on Sept. 30, but he would be eligible to return to pitch in the NLDS. That said, Roberts has been noncommittal in using Lynn as a stater for the playoffs due to his inability to keep the ball in the ballpark and runners off bases.

If Lynn is passed over, the likely name to be used in Game Three for the Dodgers is Ryan Pepiot, who excelled in his short stint with the team this season after being called up from Triple-A on Aug. 30.

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Realistically, regardless of whether Lynn or Pepiot get the nod for the Dodgers, they will have the edge in this game. Pfaddt will be a good pitcher in this league, but it’s just difficult to overlook how much he has struggled this season.

NLDS Game Four: TBD vs. TBD*

Thursday, October 12 (Time TBD)

Because of the nature of a short five-game series, both teams, regardless of who is leading the series, will likely opt to go back to their Game One starters for Game Four.

If it isn’t a repeat of Game One, though, Lovullo could opt to go with Ryne Nelson or even a bullpen game, though that seems unlikely.

Roberts, on the other hand, could give the ball to whoever didn’t start Game Three, or go with an opener such as Ryan Yarbrough, Gavin Stone or Emmet Sheehan (or piggyback any combination between the two of them provided they make the roster) which would lead to a bullpen game.

NLDS Game Five: TBD vs. TBD*

Friday, October 13 (Time TBD)

If this series gets to a Game Five, there is no doubt both teams will start their best available arm. For the Diamondbacks, regardless of who starts Game Four, that would probably be Zac Gallen. The Dodgers would presumptively counter with Clayton Kershaw if he didn’t start Game Four, or Bobby Miller on a very short leash.

*If necessary

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Lineup Comparison

Mookie Betts (2B).307/.408/.579, 39 HR, 107 RBI, 126 R, 14 SB, 8.3 fWAR
Freddie Freeman (1B).331/.410/.567, 29 HR, 102 RBI, 131 R, 23 SB, 7.9 fWAR
Will Smith (C).261/.359/.438, 19 HR, 76 RBI, 4.4 fWAR
J.D. Martinez (DH).271/.321/.572, 33 HR, 103 RBI, 2.2 fWAR in 113 games
Max Muncy (3B).212/.333/.475, 36 HR, 105 RBI, 2.9 fWAR
Jason Heyward (RF).269/.340/.473, 15 HR, 2.2 fWAR
Chris Taylor/David Peralta (LF)T: .237/.326/.420, 15 HR, 16 SB, 1.9 fWAR P: .259/.294/.381, 0.1 fWAR
James Outman (CF).248/.353/.437, 23 HR, 70 RBI, 16 SB, 4.4 fWAR
Miguel Rojas (SS).236/.290/.322, 0.6 fWAR
Regular season stats, via FanGraphs
Corbin Caroll (RF).285/.362/.506, 25 HR, 76 RBI, 116 R, 54 SB, 6.0 fWAR
Ketel Marte (2B).276/.358/.485, 25 HR, 82 RBI, 4.2 fWAR
Tommy Pham (DH).256/.328/.446, 16 HR, 68 RBI, 22 SB, 1.8 fWAR
Christian Walker (1B).258/.333/.497, 33 HR, 103 RBI, 3.8 fWAR
Gabriel Moreno (C).284/.339/.408, 7 HR, 50 RBI, 1.7 fWAR
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (LF).261/.309/.463, 24 HR, 82 RBI, 2.1 fWAR
Alek Thomas (CF).230/.273/.374, 9 HR, 39 RBI, 0.5 fWAR
Evan Longoria (3B).223/.295/.422, 11 HR, 0.1 fWAR
Geraldo Perdomo (SS).246/.353/.359, 6 HR, 16 SB, 2.7 fWAR
Regular season stats, via FanGraphs

The Dodgers were baseball’s second-best offense this season in runs scored, OBP and slugging. Those numbers only fell behind the record-setting Atlanta Braves. With Betts and Freeman at the top leading the charge, the Dodgers can outscore anyone. Add in the fact that the Dodgers had four hitters reach the 100-RBI mark, and this offense is going to be tough to keep in check.

The Diamondbacks offense, on the other hand, was middle of the pack in the regular season. They were 14th in runs scored and OBP, and 17th in slugging. But, as good as Betts and Freeman are, Carroll, when he is hot, is as good as anyone in the box, even as a rookie. Where he goes, the rest of the lineup follows, and he will be key to igniting the Diamondbacks offense in this series.

The Dodgers definitely have the edge offensively by both the numbers and by star power, but the Diamondbacks aren’t exactly incapable of scoring runs. It’s just going to be difficult keeping up with the Dodgers.

Bullpen Comparison

Dodgers Bullpen

Brusdar Braterol67.16.421.6064.4%
Evan Phillips61.19.681.9142.7%
Ryan Brasier59.28.452.8743.8%3.483.144.04
Caleb Ferguson60.110.443.4349.1%3.433.343.68
Ryan Yarbrough89.26.721.4139.1%4.524.384.65
Joe Kelly39.113.734.1258.0%4.122.722.61
Shelby Miller42.09.004.0737.4%1.713.684.49
Ryan Pepiot42.08.141.0736.7%
via FanGraphs

Diamondbacks Bullpen

Paul Sewald60.211.873.5632.1%3.123.573.76
Kevin Ginkel65.19.643.1750.3%2.482.863.60
Andrew Saalfrank10.15.233.4871.0%
Ryan Thompson30.26.163.3860.0%3.824.334.41
Bryce Jarvis23.24.563.4244.3%
Joe Mantiply39.06.462.0853.8%4.623.854.21
Mguel Castro64.28.353.4843.8%4.314.314.26
Regular season stats, via FanGraphs

Some of the individual numbers for the Dodgers may be bit misleading. Brasier, Yarbrough and Kelly all played for other teams this season before coming to the Dodgers, and have excelled during their time in Los Angeles. The three are sporting ERAs of 0.70, 2.93 and 1.74, respectively, with the club.

The Dodgers’ bullpen got off to a really rough start this season, but finished with a 3.42 ERA as a team and a 2.28 ERA since June 20. The Dodgers have multiple high-leverage arms that can be used to neutralize a Diamondbacks offense that, at times, has a tendency to go cold.

The Diamondbacks bullpen, much like the Dodgers, figured it out by the end of the season, and they showed it against the Brewers with nine crucial scoreless innings of work between the two games.

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In the month of September, the Diamondbacks bullpen was second in the sport in ERA and WHIP at 2.31. and 1.02, respectively.

It will be incredibly important for the main cogs in the Diamondbacks bullpen — Sewald, Ginkel and Thompson — to play their part in slowing a Dodgers offense that can be explosive at times.

NLDS Prediction

At the end of the day, the Diamondbacks may have a slight edge in the starting pitching department because of Gallen, but the Dodgers have the edge offensively and in the bullpen.

The Dodgers are just the better team, but the Diamondbacks have momentum and a resolve to beat their NL West rivals. As I previously said, anything can happen in a best-of-five series. The Dodgers were the better team one season ago, but the San Diego Padres knocked the Dodgers out anyway.

Despite that being the case, and maybe, actually, because of it, I think the Dodgers will learn from their mistakes in past postseasons and will take care of business in the NLDS against the Diamondbacks.

Dodgers in four.

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