It’s that time of year again. For the last four years, October in Milwaukee means playoff baseball. Brewers pride is palpable in the state of Wisconsin.
The fast-approaching NLDS matchup between the Milwaukee Brewers and Atlanta Braves features power against power. The Brewers boast a pitching staff with two legitimate aces who throw 95+ mph heat regularly, and arguably the most dominant relief pitcher in all of baseball. On the other side, the Braves finished second in the National League in total home runs with 239. Additionally, six Atlanta Braves hit at least 25 home runs in 2021, and only one Brewer, Avisail Garcia, reached that number.
The two clubs finished 3-3 against one another in the regular season, though the rosters of both teams have evolved significantly since their first matchup back in May. That series was before the Brewers traded for Willy Adames, Rowdy Tellez, and Eduardo Escobar, and it was before the Braves replaced injured superstar outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr., as well as Marcell Ozuna, who is on administrative leave, with Jorge Soler, Joc Pederson, and Adam Duvall, all of whom have performed admirably since being acquired.
With this backdrop in mind, let’s explore some bold predictions for this Brewers-Braves series that is sure to entertain.
NLDS Bold Prediction #1: Christian Yelich Hits Multiple Home Runs
A couple years ago, this prediction wouldn’t have been very bold at all. However, it’s no secret that Christian Yelich had a down year in 2021, especially when it comes to the longball.
That said, I think the fact that the regular season is now out the window will benefit Christian from a mental standpoint and allow him to find a power stroke. The 29-year-old former MVP still demands attention and occupies a distinct and important presence in any lineup he is in, based on what everyone knows he is capable of, which is putting up big-time numbers and getting on base at a very high rate. His on-base percentage in 2021 was a very respectable .362.
Look for Yelich to do more damage against righties than lefties, as has been the case with him all season. Seven of his nine long balls came against right-handers, and his OPS was .781, compared to .611 against lefties. Game 1 starter for Atlanta, Charlie Morton, is right-handed, as is probable Game 3 starter Ian Anderson.
NLDS Bold Prediction #2: The Brewers will shut out the Braves at least once
This prediction somewhat contradicts what I just stated about the Braves’ high-powered offense, but hey, that’s what makes the prediction bold. The reason the Brewers can shut the Braves out is because Milwaukee’s pitching is just that good. They led all of baseball this season with nineteen shutouts.
The staff is also very well-rested. Corbin Burnes, Game One’s starter and NL Cy Young favorite, last pitched on October 2nd but only went two innings. Before that short start, his last outing was on September 25th against the Mets, where he went seven innings. So, Burnes is well-rested but also not to the point where you might worry about him being rusty come Friday afternoon.
The same can be said for other key pitchers such as Brandon Woodruff, Josh Hader, and Freddy Peralta. The Brewers have known they were postseason bound for a while now, and Craig Counsell has managed their innings accordingly. I can see it culminating in a Game One or Game Two shutout.
NLDS Bold Prediction #3: The Brewers Will Sweep
The regular season series tells us that this is an evenly-matched series that could go down to the wire, and there are definitely some reasons to believe that.
However, as we all know as baseball fans, the game is one of inches. A costly error, a poor managerial decision, or an unexpected pinch-hit can swing the momentum of an entire game, and even an entire series.
Knowing this, and factoring in that Milwaukee has home field advantage and will play the first two games at home in American Family Field, leads me to the prediction that Milwaukee will use its dominant pitching, sturdy defense, and balanced lineup to come out on top in three straight ballgames, sending Atlanta packing.
The series begins on Friday.