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MLB Roundtable: NLDS Predictions

Which teams are going to advance to the NLCS? Our experts make their picks.
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Each of the four remaining National League teams are playing without at least one of their best players due to injury.

The Dodgers will not have first baseman Max Muncy and lefthander Clayton Kershaw when they face the rival Giants in the postseason for the first time ever. Meanwhile, San Francisco's lineup will be missing Brandon Belt, who led the team with 29 home runs despite playing in just 97 games. He fractured his thumb less than two weeks ago. The latest reports suggest he may be ready to come back for the NLCS, but first the Giants will need to advance without him.

Giants outfielder Mike Yastrzemski; Dodgers second baseman Trea Turner

Giants outfielder Mike Yastrzemski; Dodgers second baseman Trea Turner

Brewers righthander Devin Williams, the reigning NL Rookie of the Year, fractured his right hand after punching a wall while he was drunk following his team's division-clinching celebration. Milwaukee's greatest strength is its pitching staff, and it'll be without one of its two best relievers (who are also two of the best bullpen arms in the league) this postseason. The Braves have a potent lineup that could take advantage of a Brewers 'pen without Williams, but Atlanta is missing perhaps the best player of them all, Ronald Acuña Jr., who tore his ACL in July.

Those absences will certainly have an impact on what happens during the Division Series and beyond.

Knowing that, it's time for some NLDS predictions from Sports Illustrated's MLB staff.

Tom Verducci

Matchup: Brewers vs. Braves

The Devin Williams injury makes it harder to hold down the better offensive team.

Prediction: Braves (four games)

Giants righthander Logan Webb

Giants righthander Logan Webb

Matchup: Giants vs. Dodgers

San Francisco is the one team that can match the Dodgers’ pitching and bench depth. Don’t underestimate Logan Webb, who has the best pure stuff on the Giants’ staff.

Prediction: Giants (five games)

Stephanie Apstein

Matchup: Brewers vs. Braves

Even without fireman Devin Williams, Milwaukee has a formidable relief corps. Atlanta is down its most dangerous hitter, Ronald Acuña Jr., and I think that will be enough to send the Braves home.

Prediction: Brewers (four games)

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Matchup: Giants vs. Dodgers

These two teams are so evenly matched, down to the fact that both heads of baseball operations and managers worked together and share philosophies. I think it’s a coin flip, but I’ll give the edge to the home team.

Prediction: Giants (five games)

Corbin Burnes

Brewers ace Corbin Burnes

Emma Baccellieri

Matchup: Brewers vs. Braves

Milwaukee's pitching staff is simply too good to bet against: Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta have been one of the most fearsome rotation trios in the game this season, and it will be difficult for the Braves to count on getting much going off of them.

Prediction: Brewers (four games)

Matchup: Giants vs. Dodgers

It's impossible to say that one of these teams is definitively better than the other—the two best records in baseball, (almost perfectly) evenly matched over the course of the long season, make for a true coin-flip of a divisional series. The Giants have the slightly better offense while the Dodgers have the slightly better pitching staff. L.A. had a higher run differential but also has to deal with missing out on an injured Max Muncy. This one could go either way—but pressed for a pick, I'll go with the depth of the Dodgers. In any case, let's all hope it goes five.

Prediction: Dodgers (five games)

Sep 30, 2020; Cumberland, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman (5) reacts after singling to score the game winning run against the Cincinnati Reds during the thirteenth inning at Truist Park.

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman

Will Laws

Matchup: Brewers vs. Braves

Milwaukee's Big Three is obviously intimidating in a five-game series. But Max Fried's 1.74 ERA in the second half was the best of any starter in the sport, and Charlie Morton has a solid claim for being the best postseason pitcher since Madison Bumgarner. In large part due to Atlanta's outfield makeover at the trade deadline, the Braves scored nearly a half-run more per game in the second half despite the absence of Ronald Acuña Jr. Also of note: Corbin Burnes's worst start of the year came against Atlanta on July 30, when he gave up five runs on nine hits and two walks in four-plus innings. In what should be a tight, low-scoring series, I think the Braves boast more guys who can change a game with one swing of the bat.

Prediction: Braves (five games)

2021 National League Division Series Betting Previews, Odds and Picks

Matchup: Giants vs. Dodgers

It'll be a real shame if this historic series doesn't go the distance. Max Muncy's health could end up being the deciding factor, as his patience and power from the left side would really come in handy against San Francisco's righty-heavy rotation. Regardless, I'm wary of how Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood all faded a bit after sizzling starts, with all looking far more hittable while posting ERAs above 4.00 in the second half. It's hard to pick against the defending champs and their loaded, experienced roster that's already overcome a tense elimination game this week. I think we're getting an NLCS rematch.

Prediction: Dodgers (five games)

Aug 8, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Trea Turner (6) scores a run against the Los Angeles Angels during the second inning at Dodger Stadium.

Dodgers second baseman Trea Turner

Matt Martell

Matchup: Brewers vs. Braves

With Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta, the Brewers have arguably the best 1, 2, 3 of any rotation in the majors. Elite pitching plays in the postseason and for as good as commendable as it was for the Braves to retool their outfield on the fly and keep bopping, their lineup isn't going to score enough.

Prediction: Brewers (four games)

Matchup: Giants vs. Dodgers

The Dodgers are so star-studded and so deep, it's hard to ever pick against them. They were my pick to come out of the National League before the season, and I stuck with them in our World Series predictions earlier this week (RIP my awful Yankees title pick). But, I'm changing it up now. The Giants could be the team that's built the best to win in the postseason: They had the best home-run differential this year (+90) and they are have a pitching staff without a weak link. They play matchups with their pitchers, and they do so effectively. The Dodgers could very well make me regret not sticking with them, but I'm going with San Francisco.

Prediction: Giants (five games)

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Nick Selbe

Matchup: Brewers vs. Braves

Can Atlanta ride two hot pitchers to a repeat appearance in the NLCS? I think yes, as Max Fried and Charlie Morton have thrown the ball really well down the stretch. The Braves have a deep lineup, and Milwaukee will miss Devin Williams in key spots late in games.

Prediction: Braves (five games)

Matchup: Giants vs. Dodgers

It's out of the frying pan and into the fryer for the Dodgers, who avoided disaster against the Cardinals in the wild-card game and now must face their longtime rivals in a best-of-five series. Los Angeles has the better roster, but San Francisco has defied the odds every step of the way until this point. I thought all season long the Dodgers would eventually surpass the Giants and win the NL West. This pick might just be a reflection of my being unable to let go of the fact that I was wrong, but I still believe in the defending champs and their unrivaled collection of elite talent and depth to get them through to the NLCS.

Prediction: Dodgers (five games)

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