ATLANTA ― Max Scherzer tried to get ready in time to start Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, two days after he recorded his first career save in Game 5 of the NL Division Series.
Scherzer came close. After playing catch at Truist Park on Friday, his right arm still felt tired. Ultimately the Dodgers handed the ball to an “opener,” Corey Knebel, just as they did Thursday night in San Francisco.
Manager Dave Roberts said right-hander Tony Gonsolin prepared to throw up to 60 to 75 pitches in relief Saturday. Otherwise, the Dodgers’ plan for Game 1 held true to the definition of a “bullpen game.”
Scherzer will start Game 2 on Sunday, followed by Walker Buehler in Game 3 on Tuesday afternoon at Dodger Stadium and Julio Urías in Game 4 on Wednesday.
“I have zero experience of trying to pitch on one day of rest,” Scherzer said. “I do have experience of pitching on two days. In the 2019 run when I did pitch against the Dodgers, I relieved Game 2 and then started Game 4. And even in Game 4, that start, I went to (109) pitches and that was a very taxing start in and of itself. So I knew that if I was going to pitch (Saturday), I was going to be limited in some form or capacity, that it was going to be somewhere in the pitch count between, call it, 60 to 90. I have no clue.”
The postseason is historically a haven for teams with three or four outstanding starting pitchers. When the Washington Nationals won the World Series in 2019, Scherzer was part of a four-deep group with Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez that scarcely relied on a bullpen by contemporary standards.
Eschewing baseball tradition is nothing new for the Dodgers’ pitching staff. They won 11 regular-season games in which their starting pitcher threw two innings or fewer, more than any National League team.
Knebel, who has never recorded more than six outs in a single game, “opened” four times before Saturday. The Dodgers are 3-1 in those games.
“Corey’s done it a handful of times, as far as start,” Roberts said. “Certain guys that I might call on to come in in the second or third inning, they’re used to that. So I think that where most relievers need their routine and they get down to the ’pen at a certain point in the game, where our guys are used to that more so because of the circumstances that we had this year. As far as that part of it, it’s certainly an advantage or benefit.”
The Dodgers made two changes to their NLDS roster, adding left-handed pitcher Justin Bruihl and right-handed pitcher Evan Phillips. Veteran left-hander David Price and first baseman/outfielder Billy McKinney were removed.
Teams are allowed to freely change their rosters between each playoff round. Once a series begins, any player who is replaced cannot play in the following round as well, except in cases of players who must follow COVID-19 protocols.
The Dodgers have 13 pitchers and 13 position players available for the NLCS.
“In a potential seven-game series, we wanted the extra arm, so that took McKinney out of the equation in our opinion,” Roberts said. “And as far as Bruihl, he has pitches with certain left-handers that the spin that goes away and sinker in, it just matches up better with some of the guys that potentially he might face.
“With Phillips, I think that his pitch mix with this particular lineup matched better. So with David and his experience, it was a very difficult call for us.”
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Bruihl, 24, made his major league debut in August. The left-hander allowed six earned runs (seven earned) in 18-2/3 innings.
Phillies, a 27-year-old right-hander, made seven appearances out of the Dodgers’ bullpen after he was designated by assignment by the Tampa Bay Rays in August. He allowed four runs in 10⅓ innings.
Source : https://www.dailynews.com/2021/10/16/dodgers-nlcs-rotation-corey-knebel-max-schezer-walker-buehler-julio-urias/869