After MLB’s field of 16 playoff teams was quickly narrowed to eight in the new wild-card series, the postseason is back to normal — sort of.
The Division Series begins Monday, with the AL playing at neutral sites in Southern California. The NL will play at neutral sites in Texas starting Tuesday. Every series, oddly enough, features actual divisional matchups, so these teams are familiar with each other — even after a shortened, travel-limited 2020 season.
The No. 1 seed Los Angeles Dodgers are a powerhouse. The No. 4 seed San Diego Padres, led by Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado, are perhaps the most vivacious team baseball has seen in years. The two clubs already played some of the most entertaining games of the 2020 season. Which star-studded NL West roster will prevail in October?
Game 1: Tuesday, Oct. 6, (9:38 p.m. ET) (FS1)
Game 2: Wednesday, Oct. 7, (9:08 p.m. ET) (FS1)
Game 3: Thursday, Oct. 8, (9:08 p.m. ET) (MLB Network)
Game 4*: Friday, Oct. 9, (9:08 p.m. ET) (FS1)
Game 5*: Saturday, Oct. 10, (8:08 p.m. ET) (FS1)
The entire series will be played at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. Los Angeles will be the “home team” and bat last in Games 1, 2 and 5.
The Dodgers had a winning record against all nine teams they played during the regular season. That included a 6-4 mark against San Diego. The Dodgers won two of three at Petco Park from Aug. 3-5. The teams split a four-game series at Dodger Stadium Aug. 10-13. Then, with the division title on the line, L.A. won two of three again in San Diego from Sept. 14-16.
This will be the first time the Padres and Dodgers have met in the postseason.
Why the Padres will win
Fueled by fun: The Padres already irritated the Dodgers once this season when Trent Grisham admired a home run “too long” for their tastes. It seems inevitable they’ll do it again, and that’s probably for the best. That type of disdain only seems to fuel a Padres team that’s hell-bent on having fun and flipping bats. Fernando Tatis Jr. broke out the biggest bat flip of them all during a Game 2 rally against St. Louis. The Padres never trailed again in the series. You do you, San Diego.
Globe Life Field: There’s no true home advantage in the NLDS, but playing the series in Arlington could be an edge for San Diego. The Texas Rangers new home only yielded 63 home runs this season. That’s the fifth fewest in MLB. Meanwhile, the Dodgers hit a league-best 118 home runs. The Padres actually finished fourth, but were 23 homers behind L.A. If the ballpark helps close the power gap, that’s a big win for San Diego.
Why the Dodgers will win
A locked in Clayton Kershaw: Everyone knows Clayton Kershaw’s postseason history is spotty at best. There’s some great. There’s some good. There’s some bad and some utterly heart-breaking, too. The version we saw against Milwaukee in Game 2 was simply brilliant and also clearly healthy. Those are promising signs that could ultimately tip the scales for L.A. if he backs it up.
Exhausting lineup: The Padres come into Los Angeles with a short-handed pitching staff. Out of necessity, they needed nine pitchers to get through Game 3 of the wild-card series. Though they combined to pitch a shutout, that’s a troubling strategy that a relentless Dodgers lineup could easily expose and ultimately use to wear San Diego down in a five-game series.
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