Ozzie Albies and Austin Riley each notched RBI hits in the bottom of the eighth inning to pull the Atlanta Braves even with the Los Angeles Dodgers at 4-4 in Game 2 of the NLCS.
The third baseman's walk-off single gave second baseman Ozzie Albies room to run home in the bottom of the ninth.
The Atlanta Braves grabbed a 2-0 lead against the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 2 of the NLDS, thanks to Freddie Freeman's RBI single and Ozzie Albies' RBI double.
It'll be hard to top the theatrics of Wednesday's NL wild-card win, but this side of the bracket promises plenty of intrigue. Who's better between the Giants and Dodgers? And can the Brewers' pitching carry them against the Braves?No. 1 Giants (+130) vs. No. 4 Dodgers (-160) TEAM RECORD HOME AWAY H2H L10 RUN DIFF San Francisco Giants 107-55 54-27 53-28 10-9 8-2 +210 Los Angeles Dodgers 106-56 58-23 48-33 9-10 9-1 +269 Postseason matchups don't get any better than this. These clubs finished with the two best regular-season records and enter this matchup with the most combined wins (213) in a playoff series in MLB history.It's also the first postseason series ever between these bitter rivals, which were separated by one game and a combined one run in 19 meetings this campaign. While San Francisco is the top seed, this series is about Los Angeles, which entered the year as the World Series favorite and has held that distinction all season, even when relegated to a wild-card game.We saw in that contest just how vulnerable these Dodgers are ... and how hard it is to beat them anyway. Max Scherzer clearly doesn't have his best stuff, but the bullpen shut down the Cardinals' hopes of a rally. The heart of Los Angeles' lineup mustered just one run, but pinch hitter Chris Taylor saved the day with that walk-off two-run blast.Still, as deep as this team is, it isn't the same one that waltzed its way to 106 wins. And that should give bettors some pause before laying such a short price.Clayton Kershaw and Trevor Bauer - two of the Dodgers' best pitchers entering the year - won't be available for this series. Neither will Max Muncy, an MVP candidate and the team's most productive hitter this season. Trea Turner has been a stud since leaving the Nationals, but Scherzer has now struggled mightily in three consecutive starts after Wednesday's clunker, the second-shortest start of his postseason career.Los Angeles still has enough talent to win it all, but should it be favored here by such a wide margin? After all, the Giants had a nearly identical wOBA (.329) and wOBA allowed (.286) to the Dodgers (.327, .272) and beat them 10 of the 19 times they met in the regular season. And if you still believe those stats are a fluke, you might want to take a closer look at this San Francisco roster.Kevin Gausman looked like a potential Cy Young winner for much of the season, holding 10 of his first 12 opponents to one earned run or fewer and finishing with 20 quality starts in 33 tries. Logan Webb has been nearly unhittable at home (1.96), where he'll get the call for Game 1. Ten Giants finished the year with 10 or more home runs, and six relievers threw at least 50 innings with an ERA below 3.00.San Francisco isn't as top-heavy as Los Angeles, especially not after Brandon Belt's injury, but it boasts the depth to withstand the rigors of a five-game series. Given the Dodgers' injuries as of late, it wouldn't be crazy to consider this a coin-flip series, making the Giants an easy play at plus-money.Pick: Giants +130No. 2 Brewers (-155) vs. No. 3 Braves (+125) TEAM RECORD HOME AWAY H2H L10 RUN DIFF Milwaukee Brewers 95-67 45-36 50-31 3-3 4-6 +115 Atlanta Braves 88-73 42-38 46-35 3-3 8-2 +134 Just how far can elite pitching carry a team in this postseason? That's the question hanging over the Brewers, who ranked third in ERA (3.50) and 12th in runs scored per game (4.6) during the regular season, although that probably overstates how productive this lineup actually was.Make no mistake, Milwaukee's ability to win this series (and possibly win it all) rests on its pitching staff, which is built perfectly for this postseason moment. The Brewers finished a combined 53-32 (.624) when one of Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, or Freddy Peralta took the mound despite plating just 4.3 runs on average in those 85 games.The gem is Burnes, who leads all starters with a 2.43 ERA, 1.63 FIP, 12.6 K/9, and 0.4 HR/9, among other stats. The Cy Young favorite allowed 16 runs across 61 innings in his final 10 starts and coaxed at least 15 swinging strikes in eight of them. Milwaukee will be clear favorites anytime he's on the mound, as the team is in Game 1 (-150).That's to take nothing away from Woodruff (2.56 ERA) and Peralta (2.81), who are both strikeout machines and should have the advantage against an undisciplined Atlanta lineup. The Braves swung at 49.6% of the pitches they faced with a 27.1% whiff rate, both ranking among the worst in MLB, though their barrel rate (9.8%) ranked third in the majors.The pressure will be on the Brewers' top three starters to pitch deep into games to spare their bullpen, which is headlined by star closer Josh Hader but will be without the injured Devin Williams for at least this series. Milwaukee's relievers led baseball in K/9 (10.9) during the year but were susceptible to the long ball, which is a potential recipe for disaster against the Braves.This series may ultimately come down to whether the Brewers' lineup can muster life against the Braves' talented but shaky rotation. Charlie Morton (3.34 ERA) has a strong postseason resume and is a safe if unspectacular front-line ace, but Max Fried (3.04) was roughed up last postseason and Ian Anderson (3.58) struggled down the stretch of this campaign.Those three should still have the advantage against the Brewers' bats, who ranked 20th in OPS (.713) thanks in part to Christian Yelich's lackluster 2021. Still, Milwaukee's lineup posted top-10 numbers over the back half of the season behind the likes of Willy Adames and Luis Urias, who both rank as top-60 hitters since the All-Star break.Atlanta has three hitters - Austin Riley, Freddie Freeman, and Ozzie Albies - who finished with an above-average OPS in the regular season, though all of them hit 30 home runs. If those guys get hot in the later innings, the Brewers likely don't have the juice to claw their way back. That said, it's hard to imagine Milwaukee's star trio faltering enough to flip this series in the Braves' favor.Pick: Brewers -155Copyright © 2021 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.
Welcome to theScore's postseason power rankings. Here, we make a case for each of the 10 playoff teams to win the World Series.1. Los Angeles Dodgers RECORD NL SEED (DIV. FINISH) 106-56 4 (2nd in NL West) The Los Angeles Dodgers' eight-year reign atop the NL West may be over, but it took 107 wins to end it. The Dodgers are still the gold standard.It's very hard to find the team's real weakness. The Dodgers finished with the majors' fourth-best offense in 2021, according to FanGraphs. Three of their starting pitchers - Cy Young front-runner Max Scherzer, Walker Buehler, and Julio Urias - could finish in the top five of voting for the award. The bullpen remains lethal, with a resurgent Kenley Jansen leading the way. Opposing hitters don't get any breaks. Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / GettyBut there are issues. Max Muncy is likely done for the playoffs after suffering a serious elbow injury on Sunday, leaving a black hole at first base. Iconic lefty Clayton Kershaw is also out after putting together a quietly solid year. Cody Bellinger is in uniform but essentially missing, as his inexplicable regression from MVP to one of MLB's worst hitters continues unabated.Of course, if any team can overcome those obstacles, surely it's the defending champions. For all they lose with Muncy out, the Dodgers still boast an explosive lineup featuring Mookie Betts and Trea Turner, among others. The pitching staff remains deep and elite. This is still the Dodgers' world, and it will be until another team finds a way to send them home.2. Tampa Bay Rays RECORD AL SEED (DIV. FINISH) 100-62 1 (1st in AL East) The reigning AL champs are better than a season ago and look primed to do damage in the playoffs after winning 100 games for the first time.Tampa Bay might not feature a lot of household names, but the club is deep and scores a lot of runs - second in MLB behind the Astros. Overall, 13 Rays hitters exceeded 275 plate appearances and produced 35-plus RBIs this season, with Manuel Margot the only regular who finished with an OPS+ under 100 (which is league average). On any given day, the opposition is likely to face an entire lineup of above-average players, which makes planning difficult. Jim McIsaac / Getty Images Sport / GettyThe Rays are also one of baseball's best defensively. They combined for 67 defensive runs saved in 2021 (fourth in MLB) and made the eighth fewest errors. The masters of the shift always seem to be in the right place at the right time, too.Tampa Bay's Achilles heel might be its pitching. While Rays hurlers combined for the seventh-most fWAR in the majors, a playoff rotation selected from Ryan Yarbrough, Shane McClanahan, Shane Baz, Michael Wacha, Luis Patino, and Drew Rasmussen doesn't instill the same kind of fear Tyler Glasnow, Charlie Morton, and Blake Snell did a season ago.3. San Francisco Giants RECORD NL SEED (DIV. FINISH) 107-55 1 (1st in NL West) It feels like the Giants still need to prove a lot despite a franchise-best 107-win campaign. San Francisco led the Senior Circuit with a 55.1 offensive rating, according to FanGraphs, thanks to renaissance seasons from veterans like Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, and Brandon Crawford. There wasn't a player with 30-plus homers on the club, but 10 guys went deep at least 10 times, which helped the team finish with the second-most long balls in the majors. Brandon Vallance / Getty Images Sport / GettyThe Giants' pitching staff accrued the third-highest fWAR in the NL thanks to career-best seasons from Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani, and Logan Webb. Their bullpen is a strength too after posting a collective MLB-best 2.99 ERA.San Francisco put together a tremendous season after many expected the team to struggle in 2021. But can the Giants win a title without any true superstars on the roster?4. Houston Astros RECORD AL SEED (DIV. FINISH) 95-67 2 (1st in AL West) Houston enters the postseason as an offensive juggernaut. The Astros' league-leading fWAR was four points better than the Toronto Blue Jays and nearly five points higher than every other playoff team, and their plus-205 run differential was second in the AL behind only the Rays. Five of the Astros' starting nine players also drove in 80-plus runs while posting an OPS over .800. That doesn't include Alex Bregman, who's a threat in his own right. Tim Warner / Getty Images Sport / GettyThe Astros' starting pitching has been solid this season too, with Lance McCullers Jr., Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy, and AL Rookie of the Year candidate Luis Garcia all finishing with an ERA under four. Zack Greinke is a postseason wild card after pitching only once since Sept. 20, but he's battle-tested with playoff experience under his belt.5. Milwaukee Brewers RECORD NL SEED (DIV. FINISH) 95-67 2 (1st in NL Central) The Brewers' winning clubs have historically been all about offense, but not this year. Pitching is the reason Milwaukee cruised to the NL Central crown. Cy Young candidates Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff anchor a deep and talented rotation, and Josh Hader is still a beast out of the bullpen. Even without Devin Williams, who broke his hand, the Brewers' bullpen is tough to crack. Justin Casterline / Getty Images Sport / GettyThe big question is how much run support the pitchers will get. The Brewers' 194 home runs were the fewest among NL playoff teams this year. Only four of their hitters produced an OPS above .800, and three of them - Willy Adames, Eduardo Escobar, and Rowdy Tellez - were midseason acquisitions. Christian Yelich has morphed back into a league-average hitter, and the Brewers desperately need more from him.The offensive questions will hang over Milwaukee in a big way. But this crew boasts more than enough pitching to overcome that concern.6. Chicago White Sox RECORD AL SEED (DIV. FINISH) 93-69 3 (1st in AL Central) The White Sox coasted to the AL Central title after being the only team with a .500 record in their division. There's loads of talent in Chicago's lineup, starting rotation, and bullpen. However, they face a major test in the ALDS against the seasoned Astros, who boast arguably MLB's best offense.Chicago received a major boost with the returns of Eloy Jimenez, Yasmani Grandal, and Luis Robert late in the season from long-term injuries. The latter might be the club's best hitter after slashing .338/.378/.567 with 13 homers over 68 games. The 23-year-old could steal the spotlight during an extended postseason run. Ron Vesely / Getty Images Sport / GettyThe club's starting rotation amassed the highest fWAR among Junior Circuit teams. The foursome of Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, and Carlos Rodon is the AL's best heading into the playoffs, but there are some concerns about Rodon's health.7. New York Yankees RECORD AL SEED (DIV. FINISH) 92-70 5 (3rd in AL East) It was a roller-coaster ride of a season for the Yankees, but the Bronx Bombers are in the playoffs for the fifth straight campaign. A typical Yankees lineup - not including the injured DJ LeMahieu - usually consists of eight players with at least one All-Star Game appearance, while the rotation features one of MLB's toughest aces in Gerrit Cole. Though some of those stars aren't producing to their full potential, the Yankees can beat anybody on any day, especially if Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton stay hot. They've combined for 20 home runs and 50 RBIs since Sept. 1. Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / GettyWhile the Yankees look dangerous on paper, there are a lot of red flags entering the playoffs too. Losing LeMahieu until potentially the ALCS is huge, the rotation was shaky down the stretch while posting a 4.53 ERA in September and October (16th), and the offense was ice cold to end the season, scoring just six runs over three games against the Rays.8. Atlanta Braves RECORD NL SEED (DIV. FINISH) 88-73 3 (1st in NL East) It's been an incredible run for the Braves, who were left for dead when Ronald Acuna Jr. suffered a season-ending knee injury before the All-Star break. The Braves didn't climb to a winning record until Aug. 6, and they didn't pull away to clinch the NL East until the final weeks of the season. Adam Hagy / Getty Images Sport / GettyNo Acuna obviously weakens Atlanta's offense, but plenty of players have picked up the slack. Reigning NL MVP Freddie Freeman produced another great year, Ozzie Albies pounded out 40 doubles, and Austin Riley finally broke out to become an MVP candidate. Midseason pickups Adam Duvall and Jorge Soler added some much-needed pop to the lineup down the stretch. There are a few question marks in the bullpen, but starters Max Fried, Charlie Morton, and Ian Anderson will give this team every chance to win.Atlanta is going to need those starters to be elite to keep any hope of turning the club's unlikely division title into a longer run. The absence of Acuna and his game-changing capabilities could be too much to overcome, especially in a short series.9. Boston Red Sox RECORD AL SEED (DIV. FINISH) 92-70 4 (2nd in AL East) The Red Sox went from looking like a lock to host a wild-card game to almost missing the playoffs, and then back to securing the AL's top wild-card spot, all over 10 days. The team's unstable run earns it a date with the Yankees, another club that overcame maddening inconsistency to make the playoffs.There's plenty of firepower in Boston's lineup with Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, Kyle Schwarber, and Hunter Renfroe. A lengthy playoff run could depend on Martinez's health after he injured his ankle during the team's regular-season finale. Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox / Getty Images Sport / GettyBoston's pitching is going to be a major concern, especially if ace Chris Sale can't regain the form that made him a perennial Cy Young candidate before his Tommy John surgery. The star left-hander posted a 3.16 ERA with 52 strikeouts over 42 2/3 innings, but he produced a 3.69 FIP and never made it past the sixth inning in any of his nine starts. He needs to be great for Boston to have a shot.10. St. Louis Cardinals RECORD NL SEED (DIV. FINISH) 90-72 5 (2nd in NL Central) The Cardinals enter the postseason after winning 19 of their final 22 games, but playing the Dodgers in a one-game playoff is a tall task.If St. Louis is going to beat Los Angeles, it will need a stellar performance from Adam Wainwright, who defied age to post some of his best career numbers this season (17-7, 3.05 ERA in 206 1/3 innings). Dilip Vishwanat / Getty Images Sport / GettyBaseball's best defense will help Wainwright in his effort to top L.A.The Cardinals' 83 defensive runs saved ranked first in MLB this season, while their 23.5 UZR was second among NL clubs, according to FanGraphs.Four of the top 30 qualified players in defensive runs saved (Tyler O'Neill, Paul Goldschmidt, Yadier Molina, and Nolan Arenado) play for the Cardinals, while Harrison Bader (who didn't qualify) amassed 15 DRS on his own.Copyright © 2021 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.