Can anyone knock off the Dodgers? They have been baseball’s behemoth all year long en route to setting the franchise’s single-season record for wins and claiming their ninth NL West title over the past 10 seasons. A few teams will have a shot at beating the Dodgers, including perhaps the NL East champion Atlanta Braves, who have earned the senior circuit’s second bye through the Wild Card Round. Here’s a quick look at those two teams.
National League teams with a bye
Despite some underperforming bats and a bunch of pitching injuries, the Dodgers lead all of MLB in runs scored and ERA. It feels like no matter whom they call upon, that player will step up. Mookie Betts, Trea Turner and Freddie Freeman make up arguably the best top of the lineup in MLB history. Justin Turner has been hot at the plate during the second half. Julio Urias has turned into a full-fledged ace and will probably finish as the runner-up in the NL Cy Young Award voting. And don’t forget future first-ballot Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw; he still looks to have plenty left in the tank. This is not a perfect team — they have some bullpen issues, and those pitching injuries have hurt their depth — but it is definitely the best team in baseball this year. The Dodgers are hunting for their eighth World Series title, and their first since winning it all at the end of the shortened 2020 season.
After winning the 2021 World Series, the Braves traded the face of their franchise, Freddie Freeman, to the Dodgers. World Series MVP Jorge Soler signed with the Marlins. Starting pitcher Ian Anderson fell apart. Second baseman Ozzie Albies has missed big chunks of time due to injuries.
But what has really changed? Ultimately, not a whole lot because the Braves, with the help of burgeoning stars Michael Harris II, Spencer Strider and Vaughn Grissom, look like a real threat to repeat. No team has done that since the Yankees of 1999 and 2000. The lineup, headed by slugger Austin Riley, is still stacked. The starting rotation looks pretty solid. The bullpen is deep. After besting the Mets in a nip-and-tuck, high-stakes, playoff-like battle to win the NL East title, nothing is impossible for Atlanta this postseason.