Braves Vs. Dodgers Game 1 Preview: Walker Buehler, Max Fried Duel In NLCS Opener

After sweeping the Milwaukee Brewers and San Diego Padres in the first two rounds of postseason play, the Los Angeles Dodgers return to the field for a National League Championship Series showdown against the Atlanta Braves, who also are undefeated thus far.

Walker Buehler gets the nod in Game 1 and looks to slow down the Braves’ powerful lineup. “You game plan no different, you just try and find what you think you can do well against them,” he said.

“They’ve got a lot of veteran hitters over there and they’ve got a lot of younger guys that play like veterans. Acuña has been here a little while now and been like that since he got here. A lot of talented players over there, but we have talented players as well and we trust in our offense.”

Monday marks Buehler’s second career postseason start against the Braves. He previously faced them in Game 3 of the 2018 NL Division Series, allowing a big two-out grand slam to Ronald Acuña Jr. that capped off a five-run second inning.

“We’ve talked about this game so much now, especially with how eerily similar it was against San Diego. It is what it is. I think learning how to control what you can control is a big part for me,” Buehler said.

“Especially in the playoffs, you’re kind of one pitch or a couple good pitches from getting out of things. At the end of the day I failed, and life wasn’t over. Our team didn’t fail, we didn’t disband everyone, we kept playing and got to the World Series that year.

“I think maybe taking a little pressure off your singular performance and understanding you’re part of a unit was a big thing for me at that point.”

When the Dodgers and Braves take the field Monday, they will be greeted by the cheers and boos of actual fans for the first time this season. “We’ve gotten used to playing with none, so any fans is kind of a big plus for us, I think,” Buehler said.

“I think they’ll be loud. I don’t think it’s going to be like what a sold-out Dodger Stadium would be, but there will be a little noise. We appreciate that, we like that, we’re used to that at home, so we’re excited to have some people in the stands.”

The Braves counter with Max Fried, who is coming off a shaky outing against the Miami Marlins in Game 1 of the NLDS. He allowed four runs in the first three innings, but Atlanta’s offense ultimately rallied late to overcome the deficit.

Fried was much more effective in his 2020 postseason debut against the Cincinnati Reds, tossing seven shutout innings with five strikeouts. An NL Cy Young candidate, he went a perfect 7-0 during the regular season with a 2.25 ERA in 11 starts.

The Dodgers have Edwin Rios on their NLCS roster, though he is only available as a pinch-hitter for at least Game 1.

Dodgers lineup

RF: Mookie Betts
SS: Corey Seager
3B: Justin Turner
1B: Max Muncy
C: Will Smith
CF: Cody Bellinger
DH: AJ Pollock
2B: Kiké Hernandez
LF: Chris Taylor

Braves lineup

CF: Ronald Acuña Jr.
1B: Freddie Freeman
DH: Marcell Ozuna
C: Travis d’Arnaud
2B: Ozzie Albies
SS: Dansby Swanson
LF: Adam Duvall
RF: Nick Markakis
3B: Riley Austin

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