The Braves will face the Dodgers in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series beginning Saturday at Truist Park. It’s the second consecutive season in which the Braves and Dodgers meet in the NLCS.

Here are five keys to the Braves upsetting the Dodgers and reaching the World Series:

RISP: While the Braves defeated the Brewers in their Division Series, it was far from a flawless performance. Like Milwaukee, the Dodgers have an abundance of good pitching. The Braves will need to be better with runners in scoring position. They were 4-for-30 in the category across four games against the Brewers.

The Giants went 3-for-25 with runners in scoring position in their Division Series against the Dodgers, a result that ultimately cost them the series. Stating the obvious, the Braves must make the most of their opportunities. If they fare similarly to the Giants, or even as they did for most of the Brewers series, they won’t reap the benefit of homefield advantage later in the series.

“I think it’s going to be kind of like the Brewers series,” first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “There are not going to be a lot runs scored. I think it’s going to be whoever gets that one big hit in that game that’s going to change each and every game.”

Starting pitching: Braves starters largely dominated the Brewers. They starters need to be just as good against Los Angeles. Max Fried, Charlie Morton and Ian Anderson have shown they’re up to the task. The Braves’ best chance is for their trio to deliver gems.

In the first three games against Milwaukee, Braves starters allowed two runs over 17 innings. They allowed nine hits – three each – while posting a 24:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Morton returned on short rest for Game 4, logging 3-1/3 innings in an eventual win.

The Dodgers have a three-headed monster atop their rotation that few can equal (just as the Brewers did). Max Scherzer, Walker Buehler and Julio Urias are aces. But the Braves feel Fried, Morton and Anderson can trade zeroes with them.

“I really think it’s going to come down to six, seven games again,” Freeman said. “So you can stack up Scherzer, Urias, Buehler against Charlie, Max, and Ian, and they might have more name recognition than our guys, but they’re still, I think, even.”

Homefield advantage: The Braves will host the first two games and the last two games, if the series reaches that point. That’s a luxury afforded by winning the NL East. The Dodgers, despite winning 106 games compared with the Braves’ 88, finished one game behind the Giants and were a wild-card team.

The Braves’ crowds were loud and enthusiastic for Game 3 and Game 4 of the NLDS, both wins. In the previous two meetings against the Dodgers, the Braves didn’t have homefield advantage. This time, they have, in some ways, a head start. If they can take the first two home games, they shift the pressure to the Dodgers.

What the Braves do with the first two games at Truist Park is pivotal. The weekend crowd will do its part, which the players insist makes a difference.

“You got a little taste of that in the NLDS where, just the difference in the atmosphere on the field, having fans back was incredible,” Fried said. “You can definitely feel the energy that was kind of injected into this team. To be able to experience kind of like a rematch of the Dodger series, now we’re going to be able to play in front of our fans here and then also in L.A. It’s going to be obviously the same guys on the field, but you can probably tell a little bit more of energy with fans and screaming and normal playoff atmosphere.”

Who steps up? In the 2020 NLCS, the Braves saw players such as Bryse Wilson, A.J. Minter and Cristian Pache surprise, helping them push the Dodgers to a Game 7. While the pitching situation isn’t so dire this time, the Braves, like any team in this spot, will need some unheralded players to convert in big spots.

Outfielder Joc Pederson was a star in the NLDS, going 3-for-3 as a pinch-hitter and homering twice. The former Dodger is among the top players to watch in this series – Pederson homered for the Braves at Dodger Stadium during their late August-early September meeting. The Braves will need other players to step up as Pederson did in the NLDS.

Avoid self-inflicted mistakes: Outfielder Adam Duvall had a pair of inexcusable gaffes on the base paths in Game 3 and 4 in the NLDS, but the Braves won both games, letting him off the hook. The Braves made multiple base-running errors in the 2020 NLCS, including in Game 7.

The Dodgers, baseball’s premier franchise at this point, are too talented for the Braves to get away with such miscues. The Braves will have to play clean games – that’s smart base running, avoiding errors, knowing which base to throw to, etc. – to have a shot. The margin for error against the Brewers was small; there is no margin for error against the Dodgers.

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