In a surprise move announced just hours before game time, the Los Angeles Dodgers abruptly switched starting pitchers for Thursday evening’s decisive fifth game of their National League Division Series in San Francisco.
Instead of going with left-hander Julio Urías — Major League Baseball’s winningest pitcher this season — the team announced that right-hander Corey Knebel will start the game.
The switch is believed to be simply a strategic maneuver, not an indication the Urías is injured or unavailable. In fact, Urías is still expected to pitch the bulk of the game. But putting the right-handed Knebel on the mound to start the game could force the Giants to alter the top of the batting order.
It was unclear if the Giants will do so.
Knebel has started four games this season, including a Sept. 3 tilt with the Giants.
Urías was MLB’s lone 20-game winner in 2021 with a 20-3 record. However, one of his three losses was to the Giants, when he allowed seven runs (six earned) and 11 hits in five innings in an 11-6 loss at Dodger Stadium May 29.
Urías was 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA against San Francisco in the regular season, allowing two or fewer runs in each of his other four starts.
Urías was the Game 2 winner Saturday, limiting the Giants to one run and three hits over five innings, striking out five and walking one in the Dodgers’ 9-2 victory.
Logan Webb will start for San Francisco. The right-hander was the Game 1 winner Friday, pitching 7 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing five hits, striking out 10 and not walking a batter in the 4-0 victory.
Webb was 11-3 with a 3.03 ERA in the regular season and 6-0 with a 1.96 ERA at Oracle Park, where the Giants were 12-0 in his starts.
Including the Game 1 start, Webb has made 21 consecutive starts without a losing decision. San Francisco is 19-2 in Webb’s last 21 starts.
Gavin Lux will make his second consecutive start in the outfield for the Dodgers, manager Dave Roberts said.
Lux was a pinch-hitter each of the first three game of the series, going hitless in three at-bats as a pinch-hitter, then started in center field in the Dodgers’ 7-2 victory in Game 4 Tuesday, reaching base on all four plate appearances, going two-for-two with two walks.
Lux had never played in the outfield in his six-season professional career before this season.
“I just feel that he can handle whatever situation I put him in,” Roberts said. “This has been a big growing year for Gavin.”
Roberts has not disclosed what position Lux will play. The large center field at Oracle Park is a factor in the decision “but I still trust the play and the foot speed and the ability to catch the baseball, so I guess I look at it as really there’s no bad option,” Roberts said.
The only comment Giants manager Gabe Kapler made about his team’s lineup was “there’s not going to be anything that surprises anybody.”
Being the home team in Game 5 of a division series has not proven to provide an advantage as the home team is 13-20.
Another piece of history is against the Dodgers. In the 43 division series that were tied after two games, the team that won Game 3 went on to win the series 32 times. The Dodgers lost Game 3 1-0 Monday.
A viewing party will be held at Dodger Stadium in the Centerfield Plaza and will include the opportunities to hit and pitch in the batting and pitching cages. There will also be World Series Replica Ring giveaways and free parking for ticketholders.
Dodger merchandise locations will be open in the Centerfield Plaza along with concessions in the Overlook Bars, Dueling Dogs, Golden Road Bar, Shake Shack, Jim Beam Bar, Mastercard Food Truck, ice cream truck and Michelada fire truck, which serves micheladas on draft.
Viewing Party tickets cost $70 and include a $20 food and beverage credit. Parking and stadium gates will open one hour before the game, which is set to start at 6:07 p.m. and will be televised by TBS.
More information is available at Dodgers.com/ViewingParty.
The winner of Game 5 will advance to the National League Championship Series against the NL East champion Atlanta Braves, who completed a three games to one victory over the NL Central champion Milwaukee Brewers in their National League Division Series with a 5-4 victory Tuesday.
Even though the Dodgers had a better regular-season record than the Braves, going 106-56 while Atlanta was 88-73, the Braves would have the home-field advantage in the NLCS because they won their division. The NLCS is scheduled to begin Saturday. The Dodgers would play the first two games on the road.