ATLANTA -- The Los Angeles Dodgers will start right-handed reliever Corey Knebel, setting the stage for a bullpen game in the opener of their National League Championship Series against the Braves on Saturday night, a direct reflection of what it took to defeat the Giants in the previous round.
The decision pushes ace Max Scherzer back to start Sunday's Game 2, giving him an extra day of rest after he pitched the final inning of the NL Division Series on Thursday. According to Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, it came down to having a fatigued Scherzer open the series with a limited pitch count or having him go in the second game with a normal workload in mind.
"It was something that we knew going in, to use him in that game," Roberts said. "There might be a cost. Talking to him yesterday, he was a little kind of arm tired. Thinking through it, just giving him the best opportunity to have success in a start, which is ultimately going to be Game 2."
Scherzer will face Braves righty Ian Anderson on Sunday. Anderson got the nod over veteran Charlie Morton. During his young career, Anderson has been somewhat better pitching at Truist Park, with 3.08 ERA and .586 OPS allowed there versus 3.40 and .679 on the road, but Braves manager Brian Snitker said his reasoning was simpler than that: rest.
"That's all it was about," Snitker said. "Just giving Charlie another day's rest. That's it."
With Saturday's news, the pitching matchups for the first few games of the NLCS were mostly clarified. The Dodgers will use Walker Buehler in Game 3 against Morton at Dodger Stadium. In Game 4, Los Angeles will turn to Julio Urias, but the Braves have yet to determine their Game 4 scenario.
As for Scherzer, he said that the decision to get another rest day only made sense.
"I was tired," Scherzer said. "You close that game, you expect my arm to be tired. The bigger question was how it was going to bounce back for today. I have zero experience of trying to pitch on one-day rest."
Knebel has opened five times this season, including the deciding game of the NLDS on Thursday. He took the first inning at Oracle Park in San Francisco, then was followed by another reliever, Brusdar Graterol, before Urias contributed four innings.
For Saturday's game, Roberts stopped short of declaring that he would use a pitcher in a similar bulk fashion but did say that Tony Gonsolin, who started 13 games during the season, will be part of the Game 2 plan.
"Tony is going to be in the mix tonight," Roberts said. "We just chose that it was best for him not to start the game, but I expect him to pitch well and I have a lot of confidence in Tony."
An All-Star closer during his time with the Milwaukee Brewers, Knebel had never started a game in the majors until this season. He has allowed one run over 6⅔ innings as an opener this season, including the playoffs.
The Braves and Dodgers also set their rosters for the NLCS on Saturday morning, with neither announcement containing many surprises.
For Los Angeles, All-Star first baseman Max Muncy was left off the roster, as expected. Muncy is nursing an elbow injury suffered during the Dodgers' final game of the regular season.
Also expected was the Braves' decision to leave slugger Jorge Soler off their NLCS roster. Soler was removed from the roster during Atlanta's NLDS win over Milwaukee after testing positive for COVID-19. If Soler clears health and safety protocols, he can still return during the NLCS, at which time he would replace outfielder Cristian Pache, who took Soler's place on Atlanta's NLDS roster.
Veteran left-hander David Price, who did not pitch during the series against the Giants, and outfielder Billy McKinney was dropped from the group who made up the Dodgers' NLDS roster. In their place are righty Evan Phillips and lefty Justin Bruihl.
Atlanta dropped rookie lefty Dylan Lee, who did not pitch during the NLDS, and pinch-runner Terrance Gore. Veteran reliever Chris Martin and utility infielder Johan Camargo were added.
Los Angeles will carry 13 pitchers and 13 position players against the Braves, who will have 12 pitchers and 14 position players.
ESPN's Alden Gonzalez contributed to this report.
Source : https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/32410859/los-angeles-dodgers-start-reliever-corey-knebel-game-1-nlcs-vs-atlanta-braves?device=featurephone749