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2021 National League Division Series Betting Previews, Odds and Picks

Sports Illustrated logo Sports Illustrated 10/7/2021 Jennifer Piacenti

The National League Division Series features two juicy matchups. This analysis will help you make your bets.

The Brewers host the Braves on Friday in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.

  • Game 1 : Friday, Oct. 8, 4:37 p.m. ET, TBS
  • Game 2 : Saturday, Oct. 9, 5:07 p.m. ET, TBS
  • Game 3 : Monday, Oct. 11, 1:07 p.m. ET, TBS
  • Game 4 : Tuesday, Oct. 12, TBA, TBS (if necessary)
  • Game 5 : Thursday, Oct. 14, TBA, TBS (if necessary)
Jim Rassol/USA TODAY Sports © Provided by Sports Illustrated Jim Rassol/USA TODAY Sports

Numbers to know:

Brewers (95-67)

Starter ERA: 3.13

Bullpen ERA: 4.02

Runs scored: 738

Braves (88-73)Starter ERA: 3.84

Bullpen: 3.97

Runs scored: 790

Season series: Tied 3-3

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Defense wins championships.” If that’s the case, then Milwaukee has the advantage. The Brewers have three—yes, you read that right—THREE starters who spent most of the season in the NL Cy Young conversation. Just look at these sparkly ERAs: Corbin Burnes (2.43); Brandon Woodruff (2.56); and Freddy Peralta (2.81). And the back of their rotation raises the cumulative ERA to only 3.13. The Brewers also have the best closer in the game, Josh Hader, to shut the door when they have the lead, though they will be without bullpen stud Devin Williams, who broke his hand punching a wall in anger. Oops.

Offensively, the Brewers are nothing to get excited about. They hit .233, tied for the third-lowest mark in the league. Willy Adames led the team with a .285 average and .521 slugging, while former NL MVP Christian Yelich hit just .248 and slugged .373. Avisail Garcia led the team with 29 homers, while Loranzo Cain paced the team with 13 stolen bases.

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It’s quite the opposite story offensively for the Braves. Even without superstar Ronald Acuna, Jr., the Braves continued to mash. Atlanta hit .244—tied for eighth-best in the league—and has not one, not two, not three but FOUR players with 30-plus home runs. The Braves are top five in the league in both home runs and slugging.

Atlanta’s pitching has been anchored by veteran Charlie Morton (3.30 ERA) and lefty Max Fried (3.10 ERA), while Ian Anderson (3.58 ERA) and Huascar Ynoa (4.05 ERA) have had their ups and downs. The bullpen is a bit shaky with closer Will Smith’s walk rate increasing and trade deadline acquisition, Richard Rodriguez, being a bit home run-prone.

My Prediction

This comes down to great pitching vs. great hitting. The Brewers’ right-handed pitching needs to limit Freddie Freeman’s lefty bat, while also keeping a lid on the righty power throughout the Braves’ lineup. The good news for the Brewers is hitters are batting no better than .201 against their top three. If Atlanta can’t put the bat on the ball, there’s only so much damage it can do. Even with a lackluster offense, I think the Brewers win this series in five.

PICK: Brewers in 5.

Futures for the NL PennantBrewers +333

Braves +700

Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY Sports © Provided by Sports Illustrated Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY Sports

The Giants host the Dodgers starting Friday night for the first of a five-game series.

  • Game 1: Friday, Oct. 8, 9:37 p.m. ET, TBS
  • Game 2: Saturday, Oct. 9, 9:07 p.m. ET, TBS
  • Game 3: Monday, Oct. 11, 9:37 p.m ET, TBS
  • Game 4: Tuesday, Oct. 12, 6:07 p.m. ET, TBS (if necessary)
  • Game 5: Thursday, Oct. 14, 6:07 p.m. ET, TBS (if necessary)

Numbers to know:

Giants (107-55)Starter ERA: 3.44

Bullpen ERA: 2.99

Runs scored: 804

Dodgers (106-56)Starter ERA: 2.93

Bullpen ERA: 3.16

Runs scored: 830

Season Series: 10-9 Giants

The best team in baseball all year was the San Francisco Giants. Just like we all drew it up, right? The Giants jumped out to an early lead in the division and maintained it for the majority of the season. Absolutely no one saw it coming. The Giants' average age? Oh, just 30.3 years old.

Behind strong campaigns from veterans Kevin Gausman (2.81 ERA), Anthony DeSclafani (3.17 ERA), Alex Wood (3.83 ERA) and Johnny Cueto (4.08 ERA), and young gun Logan Webb (2.97 ERA), the Giants’ pitching staff dominated opposing hitters, allowing a .238 batting average against. And the bullpen? No biggie—just the lowest ERA in the league.

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The San Francisco offense benefited from a resurgent season from Buster Posey and career-years from veterans Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt. Belt will unfortunately miss the postseason due to a broken thumb. Adding Kris Bryant to the lineup at the trade deadline gave this Giants team the extra swagger it needed to take the NL West crown. Overall, San Francisco ranks top seven in the league in home runs, runs, RBIs, batting average, OBP and slugging.

The Dodgers, despite having the second-best record in baseball, had to earn their way into the NLDS and did so in dramatic fashion with Chris Taylor walking it off in the ninth against the Cardinals on Wednesday.

The Dodgers’ starting rotation has the lowest ERA in all of baseball at 2.93, and boasts Cy Young candidates Max Scherzer (2.46 ERA) and Walker Buehler (2.47 ERA), as well as Julio Urias (2.96). Though they will be without Clayton Kershaw and Trevor Bauer, the Dodgers are incredibly deep at the position and can easily start Tony Gonsolin (2.86 ERA) or David Price (3.92 ERA). Meanwhile the relievers have a 3.16 ERA, the second-best mark in the league behind only the Giants.

The Dodgers are a juggernaut, and they are equally—if not more—deep on offense. Los Angeles is top five in the league in home runs, runs, RBIs and OBP. Max Muncy led the team with 36 home runs, but is unlikely to play in this series due to a dislocated elbow. But the Dodgers still have Mookie Betts, Corey Seager, Trea Turner, Justin Turner, Will Smith, Cody Bellinger, Austin Barnes and AJ Pollock, who can all have big games. The defending World Series champs are a force to be reckoned with.

My prediction:

This matchup promises to be everything we hoped it would be: two completely dominant rivals meeting for the first time in postseason play. It’s been a great story all season long, and this series will deliver. I know we have been saying this all season long, but the Dodgers are the deepest team in baseball and San Francisco can’t keep this up. Also, I read somewhere the Giants are contractually obligated to lose the World Series in odd numbered years. Dodgers take it in five.

PICK: Dodgers in 5

Futures for NL Pennant:

Dodgers +125

Giants +225

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