There's rarely a circumstance in which a fanbase should "wish" for a particular postseason opponent, because that's how you get on the bad side of the baseball gods, but the Los Angeles Dodgers avoiding the Milwaukee Brewers definitely feels good. And instead they'll get a familiar opponent in the Arizona Diamondbacks.
For the fourth straight year, the Dodgers will be battling it out with an NL West opponent in the playoffs. In 2020, they faced the Padres in the Wild Card round; 2021 was the Giants in the NLDS; and 2022 was the unfortunate Padres rematch in the NLDS.
This time, LA will run into an upstart D-Backs team that surprised the baseball world by dispatching the Brewers with a swift sweep in Milwaukee. And they got it done with (pretty much) a bullpen game in Game 1. Zac Gallen, as expected, took care of business in Game 2.
The series will begin on Saturday, and MLB has released the Division Series schedule on Thursday morning after the Wild Card rounds wrapped up quickly with four sweeps on Wednesday.
Dodgers vs Diamondbacks: NLDS Schedule, Teams, Bracket, Series Standings & TV
The NLDS will be broadcast on TBS, with the other series (Braves vs Phillies) preceding it. The winner of each of those two series will face off in the NLCS.
Game 1 is already set. Clayton Kershaw will go head to head with D-backs veteran Merrill Kelly, who, historically, is awful against LA. Though he finished the 2023 season with a 3.29 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 187 strikeouts in 30 starts (177.2 innings), Kelly is 0-11 with a 5.49 ERA, 1.70 WHIP and 69 strikeouts in 16 starts (83.2 innings) dating back to 2019 vs the Dodgers.
On the other hand, Kershaw is 22-12 with a 2.73 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 294 strikeouts in 44 starts (267 innings) dating back to 2008. Though Arizona got the best of him in the 2017 NLDS, the Dodgers ended up winning the game anyway.
With Game 2 on Monday thanks to an off day on Sunday, that gives Arizona the chance to run Gallen out there again. He'll likely face Bobby Miller at Dodger Stadium, but either way, the D-Backs are set up as favorably as they possibly can be despite just having to burn an extra two games in the Wild Card series.
Gallen, an All-Star and likely Cy Young finalist, only faced the Dodgers twice this year, and he got shelled both times (on Opening Day and on Aug. 28). His career numbers against LA are more favorable, though, as the right-hander has compiled a 3.48 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 75 strikeouts in 11 starts (64.2 innings).
Miller, a rookie, got to face the D-backs twice in his first MLB season, notching wins in both games (the latter came head-to-head against Gallen, too). He finished with 12 total innings and allowed four earned runs on 11 hits and six walks, then concluded 2023 with a strong September.
The D-Backs will be throwing their best against the Dodgers' best. The regular season matchups are worth noting, but they don't matter. This is the playoffs. The Dodgers need their high-octane offense (second in MLB) to show up. They need length from their starters and reliability from the bullpen. You know how this goes.
The matchup is favorable, but the D-Backs should by no means be overlooked after the strides they've made year over year.