The NLDS of the 2021 MLB Playoffs could not have featured two more different series. In one, the Atlanta Braves flexed their offensive muscles on the Milwaukee Brewers, winning with relative ease. In the other, the L.A. Dodgers and San Francisco Giants played arguably the closest and best Division Series of all time.
Let’s take a closer look at each matchup and where it leaves us for the NLCS.
Braves defeat Brewers 3-1
Much like the two ALDS matchups, one team just appeared more equipped to win. Going in, the Brewers planned to be lifted by their elite starting rotation and bullpen, hoping that the offense would simply do enough to win games. They did quite the opposite, scoring just six total runs over four games, including two shutouts.
The Braves took full advantage of this after losing Game 1 by a score of 2-1. In Game 2, Max Fried was brilliant over six innings, and Atlanta strung together a couple hits and a home run to win 3-0 and steal home field advantage heading back home.
Game 3 featured the exact same 3-0 score, but the game was even closer. Braves starter Ian Anderson was spectacular just like Fried, but the entire game came down to one swing, a three-run home run by Joc Pederson in the fifth inning. That swing would score the only runs of the entire night.
In Game 4, with the Brewers facing elimination and the Braves hoping not to go back to Milwaukee, the bats came alive. In the top of the fourth, the Brewers strung together a few hits and a defensive error to take a 2-0 lead. The Braves matched it in the bottom of the fourth.
Then in the fifth, Rowdy Tellez hit a two-run moonshot to once again give the Brewers a lead, this time 4-2. The Braves matched it once again in the bottom of the fifth.
It remained tied at four until the bottom of the eighth, when Freddie Freeman took a first pitch slider 428 feet to give the Braves a 5-4 lead, and ultimately, the series.
Dodgers defeat Giants 3-2
This was the only Division Series to go the full five games, and frankly, that’s the only way this series could’ve gone. These were by far the two best teams during the regular season, and it’s just a shame that one of them had to go home in the first round.
Ultimately, the better team prevailed, but in the most dramatic of fashions. Taking things all the way back to Game 1, the Giants put their foot down early. Three home runs from Buster Posey, Kris Bryant, and Brandon Crawford gave the Giants a 4-0 win, shutting out the mighty Dodgers in the opening game behind a gem from their ace, Logan Webb.
That same type of stifling pitching would not hold up in Game 2, though. The Dodgers struck first, as pitcher Julio Urias hit one of two RBI singles in the second inning to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead. The Giants closed the gap to 2-1, but a four-run sixth inning made it 6-1 Dodgers. L.A. ultimately wound up winning 9-2, collecting 11 hits off of six Giants pitchers.
Game 3 was the first of two instant classics this series provided. Gusting winds in L.A. made for an impossible baseball atmosphere, and the score reflected it. The two teams combined mustered just eight hits, most of them on the ground. However, a solo home run by Evan Longoria on Max Scherzer was the difference, as the Giants won 1-0 to take a 2-1 series lead.
In a must-win Game 4, the Dodgers bats came alive again. Home runs by Mookie Betts and Will Smith accounted for four of the Dodgers’ seven runs, as they won 7-2 to tie the series and force a Game 5 in San Francisco.
Game 5 was shaping up to be another instant classic, and the two 109-win teams did not disappoint. The Dodgers started the game with some trickery, using an opener for the eventual bulk pitcher, Urias. The Giants went with Webb on the mound again, and he was dominant again.
This game was scoreless until the sixth inning, when Betts — after his third hit of the night — stole second base and scored on a base hit from Corey Seager. They led 1-0 for all of one commercial break, as Darin Ruf took the second pitch of the sixth inning 452 feet to tie the game at one apiece.
The Dodgers then pulled a bold move, shifting their two staunch bullpen arms — Blake Treinen and Kenley Jansen — up one innings, pitching the seventh and eighth respectively. This led to two scoreless frames, keeping the game tied at one going into the ninth.
In the ninth, Justin Turner was hit by a pitch, Gavin Lux singled, and Cody Bellinger came to plate with one out and runners on first and second. After a year he desperately was hoping to forget, Bellinger came up with the hit of a lifetime, an RBI single to right-center field to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead.
With Treinen and Jansen done for the night, the Dodgers turned to their ace, Max Scherzer, to close out the series. When a fielding error by Turner put Bryant on first base with one out, Scherzer geared down. He struck out Lamonte Wade Jr. — who is known for his ninth inning heroics — and Wilmer Flores — on a controversial check swing call — to end the game and the series.
Brief NLCS Preview
In a rematch of the 2020 NLCS, the Dodgers and Braves meet for a chance at the World Series. The Braves have been a remarkable story, losing Ronald Acuna Jr. and Mike Soroka to injury, but still making it this far. Their biggest test comes now, as they face a motivated Dodgers team.