Dodgers switch starting pitcher for deciding Game 5

Sports

Los Angeles Dodgers’ Corey Knebel pitches against the San Francisco Giants during the seventh inning of Game 2 of a baseball National League Division Series Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Julio Urías won’t start after all for the Dodgers in the deciding Game 5 of their NL Division Series on Thursday night against the Giants, giving Los Angeles a left-hander out of the bullpen who has been tough on lefty hitters.

Right-hander Corey Knebel instead will open the game for the defending World Series champions against the NL West-winning Giants, who edged Los Angeles on the last day of the regular season with a franchise-best 107 victories to the Dodgers’ 106.

Knebel was expected to be used anyway, so Dodgers manager Dave Roberts just made a strategic decision to change when the righty pitched, and his experience mattered, too.

“Why we did it, I think it’s more appreciating in one game what gives us the best chance to win,” Roberts said.

Urías — the 20-game winner who pitched a Game 2 victory in the series at Oracle Park last week — could come in to face the Giants based on matchups at any point. It also could shake up the familiarity the Giants have with him.

“We want to be prepared for everything. We don’t want to be surprised by anything,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said.

Roberts said Urías was “all in” on going this route when they spoke, noting the lefty likely will still pitch for a key stretch.

Roberts said Urías is the one player in his rotation who can handle a major change in plans like this and that the decision was made by a group including the two pitchers involved.

“The only thing Julio cares about is winning the ballgame,” Roberts said, noting there is a potential downside in the move given “Corey’s never started a playoff game.”

Kapler received a courtesy text message from Roberts on Wednesday night to let him know about the switch — “we have that good quality relationship that we’ll communicate on things like that,” Kapler said.

Tommy La Stella was being considered to start at second base against Knebel instead of Donovan Solano depending on how La Stella’s pregame workout goes to test a tight left Achilles tendon.

“It doesn’t matter at this point. We’ve seen every pitcher that they have,” Giants third baseman Evan Longoria said. “I’m sure that tactically speaking there was probably some thought and changes that went into it from Kap’s side, the managerial side of it.”

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