With the playoffs just days away, teams moving on will have a chance at much-coveted glory. Every team brings something different to the table, including aces of their sleeves. But they also have weaknesses that need improving to help guarantee wins.
Like we did with the American League, we will be spotlighting the National League playoff picture and going over each contender’s keys to victory.
Keys to Victory: National League
Atlanta Braves: Stay Hungry
The Atlanta Braves will represent the National League East in the upcoming playoffs. The roster boasts young players eager to make a name for themselves, including Ronald Acuna, Johan Camargo and Ozzie Albies. Acuna leads the team in home runs hit this season. He also leads all NL rookies in that category. Atlanta has seasoned weapons to work with as well, such as Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis.
One of their biggest keys to victory is to keep playing with that same hunger from the regular season. Yes, they have clinched their spot in October already, along with a division pennant. But they cannot be satisfied with their recent success.
Chicago Cubs: Trust the Manager
If Cubs manager, Joe Maddon, taught us one thing, it’s that he can make a deep playoff run, no matter how the Cubs started their season. The battle for the NL Central is still up for grabs, and many expected Chicago to have taken it by now. But one of the biggest keys to victory for the team does not rely on the players themselves: it relies on the fans. There may be a chance that the Cubs will have to play in the Wild Card Game (most likely against the Rockies). But Cubs fans should not panic. They need to trust Maddon’s judgment as they have before. After all, this is the same Joe Maddon that took the ball to the NLCS in each of his three seasons on the job. Not to mention he helped end the Cubs’ World Series drought in just his second year.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Quiet Their Minds
The biggest problem for the Dodgers is the pressure put on them, and understandably so. They are the reigning kings of the National League. They are also the World Series runner-up. Then comes the rough and slow start to the 2018 campaign, and Clayton Kershaw not being Clayton Kershaw. But now, after bearing through rough patch after rough patch, they’re back on top of the NL West. Plus, Kershaw is back with a vengeance. Not to mention Manny Machado has brought much-needed help on offense.
Their biggest key to victory is playing with calm and cool heads. The pressure to succeed is high. But putting it aside can help them focus on getting back to the title bout they were in last season.
Milwaukee Brewers: Do NOT Ease Up
The Brew Crew is neck-and-neck with Chicago for the NL Central. At the same time, they’re holding off the St. Louis Cardinals from ruining their playoff bid. Luckily, the Brewers have a better reach for a ticket to October than the Cards do. The first of their keys to victory is to keep the pressure coming. Christian Yelich and Jesus Aguilar are spearheading the offensive attack. But their pitching staff will need to kick it up a notch to hold leads. It’s not that Milwaukee has a bad pitching staff, far from it. It’s just that the road ahead only gets tougher from here on out. Not to mention other NL ball clubs have batting orders that can shred.
Colorado Rockies: Make Every Game Count
Similar to the Brewers, the Colorado Rockies are not far behind the division race. They also have a bruising offense leading the way. But unlike Milwaukee, the Rockies’ pitching staff has not been a lot of help. As a complete unit, the Rockies have an ERA of >4.30, along with a .250 batting average allowed. Luckily, the Rockies’ fielding defense has done its part to keep the team in contention. It’s doesn’t hurt to have the league’s best third-baseman in Nolan Arenado on the diamond. Colorado will have to make every game count to get back into the playoffs. Once they’re in, which most likely they will be, they will have to hunker down and exceed last season’s Wild Card appearance.
Featured image courtesy of AP Photo/Aaron Gash
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