The Los Angeles Dodgers are the best team in baseball. They won an MLB-best 104 games during the regular season. They have an incredible pitching staff, bullpen and batting lineup. Simply put: They have no weaknesses.
So, why are a lot of national experts picking the Arizona Diamondbacks to beat the Dodgers in their best-of-five National League Division Series that begins Friday night? Simple: Because the D-backs have had their number.
The D-backs had more success against the Dodgers in 2017 than any other team in baseball, and they're coming into LA with a ton of momentum after beating the Colorado Rockies in Wednesday's Wild Card game. It's not difficult to envision a scenario in which they ride that momentum to the next round.
For the record: In ABC15's predictions for this series, I picked the Dodgers to sneak past the D-backs in five games. But no one, including me, will be stunned if the D-backs find a way past their National League West division rivals.
Here are three reasons why the Snakes can do it:
1. The D-backs have owned them recently
The Diamondbacks are one of two National League teams (along with the Rockies) that owned a winning record against the Dodgers this season. The D-backs went 11-8 vs. LA in 2017, and that includes a current six-game winning streak during which they have outscored the Dodgers by a ridiculous 40-13 margin.
In fact, the Dodgers have managed just three runs in their last four games vs. the D-backs, and midseason acquisition J.D. Martinez (more on him later) tied a Major League Baseball record by hitting four home runs in a 13-0 demolition of the Dodgers in LA on Sept. 4. If nothing else, Arizona will head into this series with a load of confidence, and for good reason.
2. Kershaw's playoff struggles
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who will start Game 1 of the NLDS, is a three-time Cy Young Award winner and a top candidate to win that award again this year. He led the National League in wins (18) and ERA (2.31), and he only allowed 30 walks while striking out 202 in 27 regular-season games.
But Kershaw is fallible right now, for two reasons. First, he has NOT been a good postseason performer: He's 4-7 with a 4.55 ERA in 18 playoff appearances dating back to 2008. Second, he has looked human after returning to the rotation from a back injury, as he's posted a 3.48 ERA in six games since his return. For perspective: The D-backs' Game 1 starter, Taijuan Walker, had a better September (3.23 ERA) than Kershaw did.
3. J.D. Martinez will feast
The D-backs traded for Martinez in July to get help in a specific area in which they struggled: hitting left-handed pitchers. Martinez is one of baseball's best against lefties, which matters against the Dodgers, who will likely feature left-handed starters in four of five games in this series if it goes the distance.
Martinez, who tied a National League record by hitting 16 home runs in September, is hitting .376 this season against lefties. He hit one of his four homers in that Sept. 4 game off the Dodgers' Game 2 starter, Rich Hill.
Make no mistake: Martinez was brought to Arizona specifically for this showdown. If he keeps doing what he's done all season against lefties, the Dodgers are in a lot of trouble.