Dodgers vs. Brewers: National League Wild Card series preview, schedule, predictions

After winning their eighth consecutive division title and posting the highest winning percentage of any MLB team since 1906, the Los Angeles Dodgers (43-17, .711) earned the National League's top seed and the right to host the No. 8 seeded Milwaukee Brewers in the wild card round.

The pressure is on manager Dave Roberts and the Dodgers to break through and finally win a World Series after falling short against the Astros in 2017 and Red Sox in 2018. Meanwhile, the Brewers (29-31, .483) are one of two clubs in this year's postseason with a losing record. The Brewers and Dodgers last playoff meeting came in the 2018 NLCS, which the Dodgers won in seven games.

Schedule

Wednesday, Game 1: Brewers (Brent Suter, 2-0, 3.13 ERA) at Dodgers (Walker Buehler, 1-0, 3.44 ERA), 10 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Thursday, Game 2: Brewers (Brandon Woodruff, 3-5, 3.05 ERA) at Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw, 6-2, 2.16 ERA), 10 p.m .ET (ESPN)

Friday, Game 3 (if necessary): Brewers at Dodgers, 6:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Former NL MVPs Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers, left, and Christian Yelich of the Brewers faced each other in the 2018 NLCS. (Photo: Stacy Revere, Getty Images)

Three things to watch 

MVP-fest: This series most notably features the winners of the last two National League Most Valuable Player awards in the Brewers' Christian Yelich (2018) and the Dodgers' Cody Bellinger (2019). However, both players got off to terribly slow starts and never really found their MVP form. The postseason gives them a much-needed opportunity to wipe the slate clean. 

Even if the Yeli vs. Belli show doesn't live up to expectations, there are three other former MVPs who could carry their teams in this series — from the Brewers' Ryan Braun (2011) to the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw (2014) and Mookie Betts (who won the AL award in 2018 and is a leading candidate for NL MVP this year).

Pitching extremes: The Dodgers have a significant advantage in starting pitching with Buehler and Kershaw at the front of their rotation. Buehler missed two weeks earlier this month dealing with a blister on his pitching hand, but he's fine now. In addition to having the lowest team ERA in the majors this season (3.02), the Dodgers also have perhaps the postseason's deepest group of starters with Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May and Julio Urias ready to step in when needed.

The Brewers suffered a major blow when their best starter, Corbin Burnes (4-1, 2.11 ERA) strained an oblique muscle in his final regular season start. Swingman Brent Suter, who made only four starts in 2020, will get the call in Game 1. Brandon Woodruff will take the mound in Game 2, coming off his best outing of the season (8 shutout innings, 10 strikeouts) on Saturday.

Bullpen battle? Perhaps the best hope the Brewers have to pull the upset is to keep the games close until the late innings. Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen had a 3.33 ERA and career-high 1.15 WHIP. Setup men Blake Treinen, Brusdar Graterol and Pedro Baez also had ERAs over 3.00.

Brewers closer Josh Hader can be almost untouchable at times and didn't allow a hit until Sept. 5. However, he did have a couple poor outings down the stretch. Watch out for rookie Devin Williams, who allowed one earned run in 27 innings (0.33 ERA) and struck out 53 (an incredible 17.7 K/9 rate).

Prediction 

Dodgers in 2

Follow Gardner on Twitter @SteveAGardner

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