Corey Knebel gets NLDS Game 5 start

SAN FRANCISCO — In a surprise move simply hours prior to very first pitch, the Dodgers revealed on Thursday that they were beginning right-hander Corey Knebel in Game 5 of the NL Division Series versus the Giants, and not left-hander Julio Urías as was initially prepared.

The choice is certainly a surprise, however one the Dodgers made strictly based upon method and not due to an Urías injury. Knebel will work as the group’s opener, and Urías will likely can be found in after to pitch the bulk of the innings.

“Corey’s a guy that I expected to pitch tonight, and just changing up when he pitches is a part of it,” stated Dodgers supervisor Dave Roberts, who sent out a courtesy text to Giants supervisor Gabe Kapler on Wednesday night to notify him of his group’s choice. “The Giants have been a tremendous ballclub all year, and just speaking to the offensive side, they have been the best team in baseball as far as getting matchup advantages, platoon advantages. This … potentially gives us some matchups going forward through the game.”

After making 32 starts this season, this will be the very first time Urías is available in behind an opener in 2021. He isn’t a complete stranger to coming out of the bullpen, nevertheless, as the Dodgers released a comparable method with Urías in Game 3 of the 2020 NLDS versus the Padres. Knebel likewise has experience as an opener, making 4 starts this season, consisting of 2 scoreless innings on Sept. 3 versus the Giants.

Why are the Dodgers doing this?

No group in baseball plays matches rather like the Giants, who frequently sub gamers into and out of the lineup depending upon whether they’re dealing with a left-hander or a right-hander. Had Urías began, Kapler would’ve packed his beginning lineup with right-handed players. Then, when Urías got the hook, Kapler would’ve performed what he calls a “line change,” placing a variety of lefty bench pieces — Mike Yastrzemski, Steven Duggar and Tommy La Stella to name a few. Almost all of the Dodgers’ leading reducers are right-handed.

By beginning Knebel, Los Angeles is doing its finest to reduce the effects of that method — to require the Giants into some challenging choices prior to the video game.

If San Francisco sticks to its initially scheduled lineup, the righty Knebel would get to deal with a handful of right-handers. In that case, the Dodgers would feel they’d be taking some early outs. If the Giants change their lineup by utilizing left-handed players versus Knebel, that may offer Los Angeles beneficial matches later on in the video game, when Urías is on the mound.

Whether San Francisco changes its starting lineup based upon the pitching modification stays to be seen. But the Dodgers are definitely taking a huge gamble in not beginning Urías, who has actually been among their finest pitchers this season. If the relocation doesn’t exercise, it might be completion of the Dodgers’ season.

How do the Giants counter?
“It’s understandable,” Kapler stated of the relocation. “I don’t think it was unexpected. Certainly changes the way we were thinking about today’s game, but nothing out of the ordinary.”

So what, particularly, modifications? Let’s start with the San Francisco lineup from Game 2 versus Urías and work from there:

Darin Ruf, LF
Kris Bryant, CF
Austin Slater, RF
Buster Posey, C
Wilmer Flores, 1B
Brandon Crawford, SS
Evan Longoria, 3B
Donovan Solano, 2B
Starting pitcher

That’s a terrible great deal of right-handed bats. But with Knebel on the mound rather of Urías, it seems like San Francisco wishes to begin the lefty-hitting La Stella at 2nd base rather of Solano. (La Stella is handling left Achilles tightness, and the Giants wish to make sure he’s all set to precede they send their lineup.) La Stella would most likely lead off, providing San Francisco an additional left-handed bat versus Knebel.

That raises the concern of whether the Giants would raise La Stella ahead of his next at-bat, most likely versus Urías. La Stella has actually a .549 OPS this season versus left-handed pitching. If the circumstance is huge enough, that may trigger a pinch-hit at-bat from Solano. But doing so would cost San Francisco La Stella’s left-handed bat late in the video game versus a difficult righty like, state, Blake Treinen or Kenley Jansen.

It’s uncertain whether the Giants would plug another lefty into their starting lineup — possibly LaMonte Wade Jr. or Mike Yastrzemski — to benefit from Knebel. But another choice would be moving Crawford up in the order to guarantee him an at-bat versus Knebel.

How will this all play out?
That’s the enjoyable part. Nobody — supervisors consisted of — truly understands.

It will depend on how Knebel pitches. It will depend on what sort of lineup the Giants prepare, and when Roberts views as the correct time to go to Urías. It may likewise depend on whether the pitcher’s area turns up in the top of the 2nd inning (when the Dodgers would certainly pinch-hit for Knebel).

But the likeliest situation sees Knebel pitching one inning, then handing the ball to Urías. Maybe Knebel begins the 2nd inning if his efficiency determines it, and if a right-handed player or 2 are due up. The Dodgers would most likely attempt to prevent bringing Urías into the video game mid-inning, so he’s most likely to begin either the 2nd or 3rd frame.

From there, the Dodgers’ pitching method may be fairly common: Urías as long as he’s effective, then turn it over to a righty-heavy back end.

“Ultimately, we trust both players can handle this,” Roberts stated of Knebel and Urías. “We feel, in one game, with the familiarity of both clubs, this gives us the best chance to win tonight.”

The fate of the Dodgers’ season may depend upon whether he’s ideal.

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