Dodgers: Here’s why wild pitching change might’ve been made before NLDS Game 5

Thomas Carannante
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 06: Corey Knebel #46 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts after striking out Harrison Bader #48 of the St. Louis Cardinals in the eighth inning during the National League Wild Card Game at Dodger Stadium on October 06, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 06: Corey Knebel #46 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts after striking out Harrison Bader #48 of the St. Louis Cardinals in the eighth inning during the National League Wild Card Game at Dodger Stadium on October 06, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /
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My God! That’s … Corey Knebel’s music?! What did the Los Angeles Dodgers just do?!

Every baseball fan was READY for the first winner-take-all game of the division series between the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, which was set to feature a pitcher’s duel between Julio Urias, who won Game 2, and Logan Webb, who won Game 1.

But the Dodgers have pivoted seven hours before first pitch and have instead opted to swap Urias for Knebel.

Is this part of some plan to play mind games with manager Gabe Kapler and the Giants?

Julio Urias is no longer starting NLDS Game 5 for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Knebel, a righty, will instead be on the mound in the first inning … and we might know why. The Giants typically feature two lefties in their first three batters, usually a combo between Brandon Crawford, Tommy La Stella, Mike Yastrzemski or LaMonte Wade Jr. We’ve seen all different kinds of variations from San Fran this year.

However, La Stella will only be available off the bench in this one after he suffered an Achilles injury in Game 4. Is it possible manager Dave Roberts and the Dodgers are forcing the Giants to put the ice cold Yastrzemski atop the lineup (he’s 0-for-12 in this series) or move Wade up in the order when, in this playoff series, he’s been utilized to lengthen the offense in the six-hole?

Or have the Dodgers simply figured Knebel not pitching since Oct. 9 plus his success against the Giants this year (three scoreless innings and four strikeouts with zero walks) would be a better strategy to maybe get two innings from him and then have Urias come in for another 5-6?

It’s possible! Knebel started a game against the Giants on Sept. 3 and pitched two scoreless frames, which was his only regular-season outing against them in 2021 (remember, he was out from the end of April until the beginning of August).

In that case, it would be much easier to bridge the gap to Kenley Jansen plus whoever sets him up (if that’s even needed). Kapler will now have to make a decision. Does he want to set his lineup to take advantage of Knebel starting the game … or does he want to keep it as if Urias were still pitching so he’s not forced to make many changes in the later innings?

Don’t forget, the Dodgers and Giants have never met in a postseason series, so LA knows it needs some sort of advantage after their rivals edged them out in 2021. If it’s the mental aspect of the game, so be it. Many other teams in recent years are very familiar with Roberts doing that, and you’d be foolish to think it doesn’t affect the opponent in a relatively significant manner.

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