The Atlanta Braves travel to Milwaukee to start a five game series with the Brewers at American Family Field. On paper, their offense is better and ranked higher in most major categories. The Brewers are better in basically every pitching category. It’s a classic postseason scenario.
So who will win, better pitching or hitting? Most experts will say that pitching always prevails. But besides the generic or stereotypes, certain individuals will have huge moments that decide the series. Who will be this year’s Mike Moustakas, who hits an extra-inning single in 2018 to take the first game. Will one of Atlanta’s starters go above and beyond and have a shutdown game? Can the Brewers continue their variety of players stepping up for a big moment?
When you break it down, there are four players that will probably determine this year’s NLDS between the Brewers and Braves. If they don’t show up this series, it could swing the momentum to their opponent and cost their team a series.
1. Christian Yelich
If Christian Yelich can be inspired by his own tweets, and the 2018 and 2019 Yeli shows up for the postseason, the Brewers will be unstoppable.
It was a journey for Yelich this season. He started out possibly swinging too hard and got himself a back injury. After returning, he has stayed healthy but his power has not been there. While definitely a great player, he is still hitting way too many ground balls while being at the top of the batting order.
After hitting .313 in August and hitting two home runs and 13 RBIs, there was hope he would keep improving and be back to the old Christian. September, unfortunately, brought a .213 batting average and .603 OPS. He did have 11 walks, but only had one home run and seven RBIs.
Yelich is the key to the Brewers winning it all. If he can turn it on in the playoffs, this offense can’t be stopped. Willy Adames, Eduardo Escobar, Avisail Garcia, Luis Urias and Kolten Wong are production monsters. Now it is on players like Yelich, Omar Narvaez and Lorenzo Cain to hit big in the NLDS and hopefully beyond. No one thought they would ever see Yelich hit less than 15 home runs a season ever again. Going off in the postseason would make up for that.
2. Freddie Freeman
The Atlanta Braves offense have plenty of weapons. The trade deadline brought in Joc Pederson, Jorge Soler, Adam Duvall and Eddie Rosario. Before even bringing in those bats, they already had players like Austin Riley, Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies. Ronald Acuna Jr pre-injury was on his way to a possible NL MVP.
Even will all of those weapons, Freddie Freeman is the one to watch out for the most.
Freddie had another spectacular regular season. He ended with a .300 average, 31 home runs, 83 RBIs and an OPS of .896. That would be 16th overall for OPS in 2021.
Against the Brewers in their two series this season, Freeman went 8 for 25, had two home runs, seven RBIs and three walks. A player batting .320 against you is a dangerous player, and Milwaukee pitchers will be trying to avoid him at almost all costs. If Freeman gets a hold of too many balls, this Braves offense will start scoring runs in a hurry.
With free agency waiting for the 32-year-old after this season, there is no doubt he will be leaving it all on the field this October.
3. Brandon Woodruff
For Game 2, if Brandon Woodruff can get close to what he had going the first two months of the season, the Braves might return home down two games. Heading into June, Woodruff had a 1.27 ERA and pitched at least six innings on every start except Opening Day. He had three starts in May with at least 10 strikeouts.
Woodruff ended the year with a record of 9-10 and an ERA of 2.56 over a career-high 30 games. He had 211 strike outs, and did not get much run support as you can tell by his record. His last few months didn’t seem too impressive, but were still solid. He pitched six innings his last three out of four starts. He also had at least nine strikeouts during a start every month in the 2021 season.
If the Mississippi native can show up to Saturday’s game and pitch at least six innings and strike out 10, the Brewers will be set up for the win. They will hopefully still be recovering from Corbin Burnes on Friday afternoon. If there was ever a time to give Woodruff some run support, that time would be now.
4. Willy Adames
Willy Adames makes the Brewers a better team. He helped introduce the “Tiger Claws” with Manny Pina and brought the “Claws Up” movement to Milwaukee. It rivals the “Beast Mode” era of 2011 and makes a team special.
Adames was batting .197 before arriving in Milwaukee on May 22nd, aka Willy Adames Day. His average shot up to .285 while with the Brewers. He went from only having five home runs and 15 RBIs to 25 home runs and 73 RBIs. His OPS went from .625 to .886. A new team, environment, and hitting coach sometimes is all a player needs to get NL MVP talk during the regular season.
It’s a different team with him in the lineup, and resting him the last month of the season should pay off in the playoffs. Adames at full strength just adds an extra weapon and energy. If he can hit .300 during this series and hit a couple of home runs and stay healthy, the Braves should be worried.
Atlanta might have a slight edge on runs per game, but Milwaukee has the pitching advantage. And if Adames and the offense can kick it into high gear, especially in later innings, the NLDS won’t be the only postseason series for the Crew.