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Dodgers power past Phillies by 6-3 on Friday night at Chavez Ravine

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Joc Pederson helped lead host LA past the Phils on Friday night

The Los Angeles Dodgers (39-19) showed the Philadelphia Phillies (33-24) why the National League pennant has gone through the six-time NL West champions in each of the last two seasons, and why it likely will once again in 2019, putting a 6-3 thumping on the visitors on Friday night at Dodger Stadium.

In front of 54,307 fans, the largest crowd to see a game at Chavez Ravine since 2012, the Dodgers ripped Phillies starter Jake Arrieta for 10 hits and three home runs. Two of those longballs came in the home 5th inning, when the Dodgers scored three times to break open a tie ball game.
The scoring got started in the bottom of the 3rd inning when Joc Pederson led off with a base hit, which was followed immediately by a two-run homer off the bat of Max Muncy.
The Phillies answered in the top of the 4th when Andrew McCutchen took Dodgers starter Kenta Maeda out to dead center field. His 10th home run of the season cut the deficit to just a 2-1 margin.
In the top of the 5th, Arrieta got himself even. With runners at second and third and two out, the Phillies pitcher lined a base hit to left, scoring Cesar Hernandez with the run that temporarily tied the game back up at 2-2.
It was then that the Dodgers did their heaviest damage. Pederson led off the bottom of the 5th by lifting his 17th home run over the right field fence. Muncy followed with a single, and then shortstop Corey Seager blasted a two-run homer to right, upping the LA lead to a 5-2 score.
Not throwing great pitches when I’m trying to go inside deep,” Arrieta said per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia after the game. “I’m just leaving them over too much of the plate, really. That’s it. I can get lefties out. You can’t miss middle-in with spin to power-hitting left-handed hitters. You just can’t do it. That’s what I did too many times tonight.
In the bottom of the 8th, Enrique Hernandez popped his 9th home run of the season out to left field, pushing the Dodgers in front by 6-2. The Phillies would get one back in the top of the 9th when Scott Kingery singled home Rhys Hoskins. But closer Kenley Jansen came on to over-match pinch-hitter Andrew Knapp, striking him out to end the ball game.
If the Phillies want to have even a shot at winning this series they are going to have to find a way to beat future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw on Saturday night. To make matters even worse, the Phillies do not have a named starter for that tilt, and could well go with a bullpen game or an opener followed by, well, who knows?

SHIBE VINTAGE SPORTS STARTING PITCHING PERFORMANCE

  • Jake Arrieta: 5 IP, 10 hits, 5 earned runs, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts. Threw 97 pitches, 63 for strikes.
  • Kenta Maeda: 6 IP, 3 hits, 2 earned runs, 0 walks, 6 strikeouts. Threw 88 pitches, 57 for strikes.

PHILLIES NUGGETS PLAYER OF THE GAME: JOC PEDERSON

This could have gone to either Pederson or Muncy. The pick was Pederson since his base hit started the 3rd inning, and then his leadoff homer in the bottom of the 5th immediately put the Dodgers back on top after the Phillies had tied it back up. Pederson went 2-4 with two runs scored and the home run on the night.

TICKET IQ NEXT GAME


2019 MLB preview and predictions

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Paul Goldschmidt powers up the Saint Louis Cardinals for 2019

 

With the 2019 Grapefruit and Cactus League schedules drawing to a close this week, all eyes are now squarely focused on Opening Day. All 30 teams in Major League Baseball will be playing in the regular season on Thursday.

How will superstars such as Bryce Harper with the Philadelphia Phillies, Manny Machado with the San Diego Padres, and Paul Goldschmidt with the Saint Louis Cardinals fare in their new homes? Which teams will become surprise contenders? Which major injuries will derail a team’s postseason hopes?
Each new MLB campaign comes with its own unique storylines. This year will be no different. Over the coming six months there will be excitement, drama, heartbreak, and controversy as each club plays out its 162-game schedule.
For years now I’ve been looking into my own personal crystal ball to make predictions for MLB’s division winners and individual award winners as well as my picks for the postseason.
A year ago in my 2018 MLB Preview and Predictions piece, I got four of the six divisions correct. I missed out on the Milwaukee Brewers edging my Chicago Cubs pick for the NL Central, as well as the Atlanta Braves, who I had for third place in the NL East.
My NL Wildcards were those Brewers and the Colorado Rockies. So the Braves were the only NL playoff team that I missed. In the AL, I had the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels as those Wildcard teams. Right divison, wrong team, as the Oakland Athletics actually captured an AL Wildcard spot instead of those Halos.
For the Fall Classic, I predicted that the defending champion Houston Astros would repeat by downing the Cubs in five games in a match-up between the two previous World Series titlists.
Those Cubs would end up losing a thrilling 2-1 NL Wildcard Game to the Rockies at Wrigley Field. The Astros returned to the ALCS, but were eliminated in five games by the eventual World Series champion Boston Red Sox.
Since I am writing for a Phillies-centric site, a bit of a disclaimer: this piece is not Phillies-centric. There will be plenty of times here at Phillies Nation where we cover the wider story of Major League Baseball. As for our favorite home nine, well, you are going to have to look elsewhere if you want to find a “homer” World Series prediction. At least this year.
Now time to reveal my predictions for the upcoming 2019 season. As always, I would love to hear your own picks in the comments section or on social media. Play ball!

2019 NATIONAL LEAGUE AWARD WINNERS

MOST VALUABLE PLAYERPaul Goldschmidt, Saint Louis
Contenders: Bryce Harper PHI, Nolan Arenado COL, Christian Yelich MIL, Ronald Acuna ATL, Cody Bellinger LAD
CY YOUNG AWARDStephen Strasburg, Washington
Contenders: Max Scherzer WAS, Noah Syndergaard NYM, Jack Flaherty STL, Aaron Nola PHI, Patrick Corbin WAS
ROOKIE OF THE YEARVictor Robles, Washington
Contenders: Alex Reyes STL, Fernando Tatis Jr. SD, Nick Senzel CIN, Luis Urias SD, Chris Paddack SD
MANAGER OF THE YEARDave Martinez, Washington
Contenders: Joe Maddon CHC, Dave Roberts LAD, Dave Martinez WAS, Gabe Kapler PHI
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEARCorey Seager, Los Angeles
Contenders: Yu Darvish CHI, Alex Reyes STL, Josh Donaldson ATL, Andrew Miller STL
2019 AMERICAN LEAGUE AWARD WINNERS
MOST VALUABLE PLAYERCarlos Correa, Houston
Contenders: Giancarlo Stanton NYY, Mike Trout LAA, Mookie Betts BOS, Alex Bregman HOU, Francisco Lindor CLE
CY YOUNG AWARDChris Sale, Boston
Contenders: Gerrit Cole HOU, Blake Snell TB, Justin Verlander HOU, Trevor Bauer CLE, James Paxton NYY
ROOKIE OF THE YEAREloy Jimenez, Chicago
Contenders: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.TOR, Josh James HOU, Danny Jansen TOR, Yusei KikuchiSEA
MANAGER OF THE YEARBrad Ausmus, Los Angeles
Contenders: Aaron Boone NYY, A.J. Hinch HOU, Bob Melvin OAK, Kevin Cash TB, Alex CoraBOS, Terry Francona, CLE
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEARByron Buxton, Minnesota
Contenders: Gary Sanchez NYY, Miguel Cabrera DET, Aaron Sanchez TOR, Jonathan Schoop MIN
2019 MLB DIVISIONAL & WILDCARD PREDICTIONS
NATIONAL LEAGUE
NL EAST: Washington, Philadelphia, Atlanta, New York, Miami
Since their franchise moved to Washington, the Phillies and Nationals have never been involved in a genuine NL East campaign where both were contenders. That changes this year and likely for years to come, and the Harper move adds a next level of spice to the budding arch-rivalry. But the Braves also have a lot of good young talent. I’ve been referring to the Mets as the “Mess” for years. Something always seems to go wrong, and until they prove it on the field, I’ll say the same this year. The Marlins are simply a rebuilding non-factor for the most part. This should prove to be a division where key injuries go a long way towards deciding things each year for awhile.
NL CENTRAL: Saint Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh
A contending Cardinals team is nearly as certain as death and taxes. The arch-rival Cubs and defending division champ Brew Crew should each again be strong. This looks a bit like the NL East to me, a real three-team dog fight that may only be settled by key injuries and big September head-to-head battles. The Reds are better, but not good enough. The Bucs also have talent, just not enough to keep up with the leaders here. This could well be baseball’s “black and blue” division in 2019, with no truly easy divisional opponents.
NL WEST: Los Angeles, Colorado, San Diego, Arizona, San Francisco
The Dodgers have won six straight divisional crowns and eight of the last 11 in the west. You want to be the best? Gotta beat the best. The Rockies are talented and the Padres are coming, but Los Angeles still looks to me like they have enough of everything – assuming health of their key performers. The Dbacks and Giants may need to start more seriously thinking about major rebuilding plans or face years of non-contention here.
NL WILDCARDS: Philadelphia, Chicago – welcome back to the MLB postseason, Phillies Nation! Oh, and how would you like to try an Aaron Nola – Cole Hamels winner-take-all pitching match-up on for size?
AMERICAN LEAGUE
AL EAST: Boston, New York, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Baltimore
The Bosox and Yankees could each well win 100 games again this year. Last year, Boston’s 108 victories gave them an eight-game cushion on their arch-rivals. I think it will be much closer this time around. The Rays almost always put up more of a fight than anyone believes, so much so that we now expect it. The Jays have possibilities down the road, but not in 2019. If you are looking for a current sad-sack story in the AL, well, there should prove to be plenty of seats available all summer at gorgeous Camden Yards in Baltimore. It’s worth the ride, Philly.
AL CENTRAL: Cleveland, Minnesota, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City
I truly believe that they are no longer at the level of the American League’s ‘Big Three’ ball clubs. But something tells me that Terry Francona is once again going to get the most out of his team. The Twins have been the fashionable pick as a surprise American League contender. If that turns out true, I believe it will have to be for a Wildcard berth. The Chisox have a ton of serious young talent coming, but it may take another couple of years to pull it all together. I just don’t see any scenario where either the Tigers or Royals contend here for the next few years.
AL WEST: Houston, Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle, Texas
The Astros won the first World Series in franchise history two years ago, were good enough to win it last year, and remain one of the favorites in 2019. Everyone else here is fighting for Wildcard relevance. With Mike Trout locked up for the rest of his career, look for the Angels to do everything in their power to start putting more pieces in place around him to truly contend. The A’s over-achieved last year. I don’t believe in them doing it again at that level. And there is just not enough talent in either Seattle or Texas for a playoff push, and may not be for a few years to come.
AL WILDCARDS: New York, Los Angeles
2019 MLB PLAYOFFS & WORLD SERIES
Two years ago, I predicted that the Washington Nationals would finally end years of postseason frustration and capture the first-ever World Series title in franchise history, defeating the Boston Red Sox in seven games. It didn’t happen as the Nats were edged out by the Cubs in a five-game NLDS.
Now with Harper gone to the division-rival Phillies, some might think that the Nationals best chances to win are over. Not so. There is plenty of talent and veteran leadership remaining in the nation’s capital. What was already the best starting rotation in the NL may have gotten better and deeper. And the Nats will replace Harper with the dynamic Robles, my NL Rookie of the Year choice.
I’m going to pick Washington to finally win a playoff series. It will be the first since the move to D.C. from Montreal, and only the second in franchise history. Not only that, but the Nats take it a step further, finally pushing their way into the Fall Classic behind strong pitching and a versatile lineup.
After the Phillies and Aaron Nola win the NL Wildcard Game over the Cubs the local crew is dispatched in an emotional NLDS by the Nationals. The Cardinals knock the Dodgers off the National League perch. And then the Nats take out Saint Louis in the NLCS.
The American League should once again be dominated by a Big Three made up of the defending world champion Boston Red Sox, their arch-rivals the New York Yankees, and the 2017 champion Houston Astros.
I’ll be stunned if the American League pennant winner does not come from one of those three ball clubs. Honestly, I cannot pick between those three. The Yanks overpower Mike Trout and the Angels in the AL Wildcard Game, then dispatch the Astros in an ALDS. The rival Bosox take out the Indians in the other ALDS, setting up a classic rivalry ALCS.
Picking a winner in a Yankees-Red Sox series is always a tricky proposition. But repeating is very difficult, and something is telling me that the Yanks, who have not been back to the World Series since their 2009 win a decade ago over the Phillies, are ready to power their way back to the Fall Classic.
And then, much to the chagrin of Harper and the Phillies, I am going to predict that the Washington Nationals erase their name from the list of seven MLB teams to never win a World Series. Call it Washington in six games over the Bronx Bombers.
And there we have it, my 2019 Major League Baseball preview and predictions. Feel free to leave your own picks in the comments section, and let’s get ready to play ball.
Originally published at Phillies Nation as Matt Veasey’s 2019 Major League Baseball preview and predictions

Phillies may fall short in the Manny Machado Derby

Manny Machado (picture: Yahoo Sports)
While Rhys Hoskins was getting passed by Kyle Schwarber in the semi-finals of the Home Run Derby last night, it appears that the Los Angeles Dodgers may have also passed the Phillies in the Manny Machado Derby.
MLB insider Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports was first out with the story on Twitter this morning:

Breaking; The Dodgers appear to be the leading contender for superstar Manny Machado as talks head toward the finish line. The situation is fluid and brewers and phillies may still have an outside chance. Barring turnabout, deal should be done this week. Story comin on @Fancred
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 17, 2018

Just yesterday it was the Phillies who were considered the leader to land the services of the superstar Baltimore Orioles shortstop. They were willing to include the organizational number two prospect in pitcher Adonis Medina in a deal. That seemed to be a potential deal clincher.
However, Heyman believes that Los Angeles GM Farhan Zaidi may be willing to include their own fourth-rankedorganizational prospect, outfielder Yusniel Diaz, which may have tipped the scales in the Dodgers favor.
It’s difficult to believe that Diaz, a former Cuban defector as a teenager, would make that much of a difference. He is an intriguing prospect. However, scouting reports on his ultimate ceiling have always been mixed. However, perhaps the Orioles see something they really like in the 21-year old outfielder.
The Dodgers lost their own young superstar shortstop, Corey Seager, to injury for the season before it even got underway. He will be back next year, and Machado has stated that he wishes to play shortstop. Heyman addressed this in a full piece later in the morning:

“If he moves to Los Angeles, Machado will effectively be filling in for injured shortstop Corey Seager, the 24-year-old budding star who was lost for the season. That makes it highly likely that he would be a rental for the remainder of the season and then sign with a different organization in the offseason, though that would be re-evaluated after the season.”

Another respected MLB insider, Buster Olney, put out more information on Tuesday morning:

Sources: The Orioles have structure of a deal in place, and are going through the medicals/paperwork portion of the transaction. Dodgers have been very invested in their pursuit of Machado, as have the Phillies and other teams, but this in not finished yet.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 17, 2018

If it is the Dodgers, that might make it easier for the Phillies to lure him with a long-term contract in the coming off-season. That would allow them to keep their top prospects. But it would also mean that the Phillies don’t land the proven impact run producer for which the present lineup is desperate.
Until a deal is actually completed and announced with some team, the Phillies are still in it. But it may be difficult to see them actually being the winner in this Machado derby without including pitching phenom Sixto Sanchez. His inclusion would appear to be a deal-breaker, as it probably should be at this point.

NLCS: Los Angeles Dodgers vs Chicago Cubs preview and prediction

The Dodgers and Cubs meet in a repeat NLCS

For the second consecutive season the National League Championship Series will be contested by the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers.

The two teams engaged in a spirited series last October, eventually won by the Cubs in six games. Chicago would then go on to defeat the Cleveland Indians, winning the franchise first World Series in more than a century.

A year ago, Chicago took the opener. But LA then received back-to-back pitching gems from Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill, shutting out the Cubs twice to take a 2-1 series lead.

After that, it was all Chicago. The Cubbies bats awoke with a vengeance to take the final three games by a combined 23-6 score.

This season, the Dodgers staggered out of the gate, going 10-12 over the first few weeks of April. But from April 27 through August 25 they accumulated an unreal 81-24 record.

That four month stretch of dominance allowed the Dodgers to run away with the National League West Division race. Even a month-long slump over which they lost 20 of 25 games would not allow either the Arizona Diamondbacks or Colorado Rockies, both eventual NL Wildcard teams, to make a dent in the division.

Los Angeles would recover to take eight of their final 10 games, finishing with 104 wins and an 11-game cushion over Arizona. The 104 victories gave them the best mark in all of Major League Baseball, and were the most by any Dodgers team in more than four decades.

The Dodgers would stay hot in the postseason as well, sweeping the 93-win Diamondbacks in three games in a National League Division Series.

Over in Chicago, the defending World Series champion Cubs had a much tougher go of things in the 2017 regular season. They would ultimately win 92 games and a second consecutive NL Central crown by six games. But that would not be decided until September, following spirited challenges from the upstart Milwaukee Brewers and arch-rival Saint Louis Cardinals.

That tougher road would continue in their NLDS against the Washington Nationals. The Cubs and Nats split the first four games, with Chicago taking a pair of low-scoring 3-0 and 2-1 affairs. Washington won by 6-3 and then in a 5-0 shutout behind Stephen Strasburg to send the series to a deciding game.

In that decisive Game Five, the two National League giants threw hay makers at one another. At the end of the battle in our nation’s capital, it was the Cubs left standing following a 9-8 victory.

The Dodgers are led by skipper Dave Roberts in his second year at the helm. Roberts has guided the LA club to division crowns in each of those two seasons.

The Cubs manager is the colorful Joe Maddon. The longtime skipper in Tampa Bay, Maddon guided the Rays to a pair of AL East crowns and the 2008 American League pennant. Now in his third season in the Windy City, he has an all-time managerial record of 1,073-922 and that 2016 World Series crown.

The Dodgers lineup receives most of their offense from five players. Two of them, shortstop Corey Seager and first baseman Cody Bellinger, are the 2016 NL Rookie of the Year and the likely 2017 ROY respectively.

A pair of 27-year olds have emerged as the most pleasant surprises this season. Left fielder Chris Taylor hit for a .288/.354/.496 slash line with 21 homers, 72 RBI, 85 runs scored, and 17 steals. Austin Barnes has taken over primary catching duties. His big 6th inning homer off Dbacks ace Zack Greinke in the NLDS Game Three helped the Dodgers clinch that series.

The mercurial Cuban right fielder known as “the Wild Horse”, Yasiel Puig, put together his finest season. The final influential lineup piece is third baseman Justin Turner. Known for his long red hair and beard, Turner is also one of baseball’s most underrated superstars.

There are plenty of veterans to provide Roberts with lineup support. They include Logan Forsythe, Chase Utley, Andre Ethier, and Yasmani Grandal.

On the mound, Roberts will go with his ace Kershaw in the opener. You can expect to see the lefty, one of the top pitchers of this generation, to come back twice more in the series if needed.

The lefty Hill will go in Game Two, followed by right-hander Yu Darvish in Game Three. Another lefty, Alex Wood, will start Game Four. If the series continues beyond that, expect Kershaw to start Game Five, and then to be available in a decisive seventh game.

The Dodgers bullpen is anchored by one of baseball’s top closers. Kenley Jansen is a big, 30-year old right-hander. He saved 41 games this year with a 1.32 ERA and 0.746 WHIP in his second consecutive NL All-Star campaign. Jansen allowed just 44 hits over 68.1 innings with a dominating 109/7 K:BB ratio.

Between his starting pitcher and his lights-out closer, Roberts will lean heavily on righties Kenta Maeda and Brandon Morrow, and left-handers Tony Cingrani and Tony Watson. He is likely to also have right-handers Pedro Baez and Josh Fields available.

Maddon is well aware of what it takes to beat good pitching in October. “Mr. Kershaw, obviously, and they’ve got Darvish, etc. Listen, we just went through Strasburg and Scherzer, and that’s no day at the beach either. When you get to this time of the year, you really have to be prepared to beat good pitching, which they have.

The Cubs group of hitters have proven they can beat that good pitching. One of the deepest and most versatile lineups in the game today is led by the 2016 NL MVP in third baseman Kris Bryant and clutch first baseman Anthony Rizzo.

Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, Willson Contreras, Javier Baez, Albert Almora, and Jason Heyward are all 20-somethings and all are talented enough that they can be difference-makers in a particular game.

The old man of the team is versatile 36-year old Ben Zobrist, who followed Maddon from Tampa to Chicago and still contributes heavily. When he takes the field in the opener, Zobrist will be participating in his 60th MLB postseason game over the last decade.

The biggest question mark in this series may be what Maddon decides to do with his starting rotation. Even as late as Saturday morning, the starter for Game One has not been announced.

Maddon could choose to go with lefty summer acquisition Jose Quintana, who tossed 2/3 of an inning in relief during Game Five against Washington just two days ago in the NLDS.

He could also come with righty John Lackey, who won a dozen games and started 30 games in the regular season. The veteran turns 39 years old in a couple of weeks, has 26 games of postseason experience, and is well-rested after not seeing any NLDS action.

I would expect to see Maddon go with those two as starters in the first two games in some order. They would be followed by Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, and Kyle Hendricks. But that’s only what I would do.

The good news is that whomever becomes the choice to start, there is plenty of talented bullpen support available should they get into early trouble. Maddon should have righties Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards, and closer Wade Davis available. From the left side it would be Justin Wilson, Brian Duensing, and Mike Montgomery. And if he doesn’t start, Lackey would be available as well.

The Dodgers had the best record in Major League Baseball this season and swept their NLDS opponent. The Cubs are the defending world champions and play with confidence and swagger. This should be a fascinating matchup.

During the regular season, the Dodgers took four of the six meetings between the two clubs. But I am going to call it for the defending champs. I believe that the Cubs have the talent to take out the Dodgers by that same margin. Call it Chicago in six games.

NLDS Prediction: Arizona Diamondbacks over Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodger Stadium hosts the first two games of a 2017 NLDS

Through four games of the 2017 Major League Baseball postseason, home teams are 4-0. Those hosts have outscored the visiting squads by a 31-14 margin to this point.

For my prediction in this National League Division Series to come true, that is going to have to come to an end. I am picking the Arizona Diamondbacks to top the NL West Division rival Los Angeles Dodgers in what some might consider an upset.

I say “some”, because knowledgeable baseball fans who have been following these teams know that, despite the Dodgers finishing with a better overall record, the Dbacks have actually been the better team for some time.

Guided by second-year skipper Dave Roberts, the Dodgers finished with an MLB-best record of 104-58. That was 11 games better than Torey Lovullo and his Diamondbacks, who had to settle for the top NL Wildcard position.

But as late as August 25, that Dodgers lead had ballooned up to 21.5 games. Over the next month, LA collapsed, losing 20 of their next 25 games. The Dodgers did ultimately recover their equilibrium at the end, winning 10 of their final dozen.

The Dbacks, meanwhile, were nearly polar opposites. They won 20 of 25 between August 21 and September 16 to take complete command of a Wildcard playoff berth.

In that NL Wildcard Game, held on Wednesday night, Arizona blitzed out to an early 6-0 lead over the division-rival Colorado Rockies. The Diamondbacks ultimately powered their way to an 11-8 victory in the slugfest that many had predicted.

The Dodgers offensive attack is led by two of the top young players in the game today in second-year shortstop Corey Seager and rookie first baseman Cody Bellinger.

Seager, was the 2016 NL Rookie of the Year. He also won a Silver Slugger a year ago, and has been an NL All-Star in each of his first two big league seasons. This year he slashed .295/.375/.479 with 22 homers, 77 RBI, and 85 runs scored.

Bellinger is the odds-on favorite to follow him in winning those ROY honors. He slashed .267/.352/.581 after his late-April promotion. The 22-year old slammed 39 homers, drove in 97 runs, and scored 87 times. He logged 37 games in left field, but just four of those came after June.

Third baseman Justin Turner was a first-time NL All-Star this year at age 32. He slashed .322/.415/.530 with 21 homers in just 130 games.

The Dodgers attack also features 26-year old right fielder Yasiel Puig, who enjoyed the best season of his five-year career. The Cuban native belted 28 home runs, second on the club to Bellinger.

Catcher Yasmani Grandal and left fielder Chris Taylor add pop, each surpassing the 20-homer mark this year. And the strong veteran presence of Chase Utley, Curtis Granderson, Andre Ethier, and Logan Forsythe should prove valuable in a tough series.

On the mound, Roberts will send the best pitcher on the planet out to the mound in the opener. Clayton Kershaw missed the entire month of August, and was a bit inconsistent in a half-dozen starts during the month of September.

Kershaw will be followed to the mound by 37-year old righty Rich Hill for Game Two, and then trade deadline acquisition Yu Darvish toes the rubber for Game Three in Arizona.

Roberts has also announced that lefty Alex Wood will start Game Four. There had been consideration to using him as a weapon out of the bullpen, bringing the ace Kershaw back on short rest.

Obviously logic says that any pitcher that’s used to a routine and going on regular rest is probably stronger, and has a better chance of success,” said Roberts in a press conference published by the LA Times. “I just think that with the guys that we have in our clubhouse, the guys who can take the ball, in this case Alex Wood, for us it’s a no-brainer.

Lovullo will matchup 25-year old righty Taijuan Walker, a big trade acquisition last November, against Kershaw. The Dbacks manager has yet to announce who will take the mound on Saturday.

With his top two starters, Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray, both logging multiple innings in the Wildcard Game, it could be either right-hander Zack Godley or lefty Patrick Corbin getting the Game Two nod. However, Ray threw just 34 pitches on Wednesday, and he could end up being the choice as well.

The Arizona lineup is led by first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who slashed .297/.404/.563 with 36 homers, 120 RBI, 117 runs scored, and 18 steals. The NL MVP runner-up in both 2013 and 2015, the 5x NL All-Star should be a strong contender for those honors once again.

The Dbacks received a huge lineup boost at the trade deadline with the acquisition of right fielder J.D. Martinez from the Detroit Tigers. In 62 games with Arizona, Martinez slashed .302/.366/.741, banging 29 homers and driving in 65 runs in that time.

Slugging third baseman Jake Lamb banged 30 homers and knocked in 105 runs. Center fielder A.J. Pollock slugged 14 homers while scoring 73 times and swiping 20 bases in just 112 games. He is one of the most underrated players in the game today.

To some extent last year, but especially in this current postseason, the importance of effective arms out of the bullpen has revealed itself to be more important than ever. Both teams have a variety of such weapons from which to choose.

Lovullo will have righties Jimmie Sherfy, David Hernandez, Archie Bradley, closer Fernando Rodney, and possibly Godley ready out of his bullpen. From the left side he can call on the trio of Andrew Chafin, Jorge De La Rosa, and possibly Corbin.

Roberts will likely lean heavily on right-hander Brandon Morrow, and has one of the best closers in the game available in Kenley Jansen. Starter Kenta Maeda is likely to be used out of the pen from the right side as well.

From the left side it’s likely to be a pair of Tony’s, Cingrani and Watson, seeing most of the action, though starter Alex Wood could also be called upon.

This was not at all an easy call for me. I don’t like making gut calls, and this is purely a gut call in what I see as a tight series.

But the Diamondbacks took 11 of the 19 games between the two squad this season. That includes a late August sweep at Chase Field, and then an early September sweep at Dodger Stadium. They are in no way intimidate by the champions of their division. The addition of Martinez, particularly in giving Arizona a righty hitter against tough lefty Dodgers pitching, has proven an equilizer.

I am calling it Dbacks in four games. I think they find a way to steal one of the first two, though beating Kershaw in the opener will be a tall order. Then I see them easily capable of sweeping in front of their home fans out in the desert.