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Dodgers defeat longtime rival Giants in thriller, will play Braves in NLCS rematch

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Cody Bellinger celebrates after hitting a run-scoring single as first base coach Clayton McCullough smiles.
Cody Bellinger, left, celebrates after hitting a run-scoring single as first base coach Clayton McCullough smiles during the ninth inning of Game 5 of the NLDS against the Giants.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Cody Bellinger hits a run-scoring single in the ninth inning to lift the Dodgers to a thrilling, 2-1 victory over the Giants in Game 5 of the NLDS.

Max Scherzer gets the save as unusual plan pans out for Dodgers in Game 5

Dodgers pitcher Max Scherzer reacts after striking out San Francisco's Wilmer Flores.
Dodgers pitcher Max Scherzer reacts after striking out San Francisco’s Wilmer Flores for the final out of Game 5 of the NLDS.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

SAN FRANCISCO — He was just so-so in the wild-card game. He lost his only start of this series.

None of that mattered now. Max Scherzer was a hero, a Dodgers hero.

The 37-year-old right-hander emerged shirtless (again) from the team’s champagne-spraying party on Thursday night, walking on to the field at Oracle Park in blue shorts and sandals. A pair of goggles were on his head.

The hundreds of blue-towel-waving fans behind the visitor’s dugout serenaded him with a familiar chant.

“M-V-P!” they shouted in unison. “M-V-P!”

Earlier in the night, the ace had become the closer, Scherzer recording the final three outs of a 2-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants in Game 5 of their instant classic National League Division Series.

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Cody Bellinger delivers Dodgers to historic win over rival Giants in NLDS Game 5

Cody Bellinger choked up with two strikes, slashed the slider and raised his right arm, pointing to the hysterical group in the visitors’ dugout as he jogged down the first-base line inside a suddenly silent Oracle Park in the ninth inning Thursday night.

He turned to them once he rounded first base and pounded his chest. Following months of frustration, of injuries and struggles and flat-out looking lost at the plate, Bellinger had produced the biggest hit of the Dodgers’ season for the second October in a row.

A year after clubbing the go-ahead home run in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series, Bellinger’s single to right field in the ninth inning off Camilo Doval, the San Francisco Giants’ formerly untouchable closer, scored Justin Turner to give the Dodgers the lead on their way to a 2-1 win over Game 5 of the National League Division Series.

“You don’t think about being that guy,” Bellinger said. “When the opportunity is there and the moment is there, you just try to stay simple and stay within yourself.”

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Giants now know what it’s like to be on the wrong end of a blown checked-swing call

San Francisco's Wilmer Flores, right, reacts after a called strike for the final out as catcher Will Smith celebrates.
San Francisco’s Wilmer Flores, right, reacts after a called strike for the final out as catcher Will Smith celebrates the Dodgers’ win in Game 5 of the NLDS on Thursday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Let’s face it Dodger fans, the checked swing call on Wilmer Flores to end Game 5 of the Dodgers-Giants division series was a bad call. Flores did not swing and the game should have continued. Max Scherzer probably would have gotten him out anyway, we’ll never know. And 20 years from now, no one will care except for the Giants and some of their fans.

However, Dodgers fans will also be quick to point out a horrible check swing call earlier this season that cost the Dodgers a game against the Giants. A call, that if called correctly, would have given the Dodgers the win. Meaning the Dodgers would have won the NL West by a game and not the Giants. Meaning Game 5 would have been at Dodger Stadium, and who know what would have happened if all that played out?

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Final: Dodgers beat Giants 2-1, advance to the NLCS

Dodgers pitcher Max Scherzer celebrates with catcher Will Smith after the final out.
Dodgers pitcher Max Scherzer, right, celebrates with catcher Will Smith after the final out of the Dodgers’ 2-1 win over the Giants in Game 5 of the NLDS on Thursday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers’ title defense is still on.

They have defeated the Giants in Game 5 of the NLDS, 2-1, with Max Scherzer finishing off the game in the ninth — despite an error by Justin Turner and long drive by LaMonte Wade Jr. that went just foul.

The game ended on a controversial call, with first base umpire Gabe Morales ruling that Wilmer Flores went around on a two-strike swing for the final out.

The Dodgers are going to their fifth NLCS in the last six years, and their second-straight against the Atlanta Braves.

That series will start on Saturday in Atlanta.

Final: Dodgers win 2-1

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Mid 9th, 2-1 Dodgers: Max Scherzer summoned for the save

The Dodgers didn’t add anything else in the top of the ninth, after Chris Taylor’s bunt attempt was caught and pinch-hitter Matt Beaty grounded out to first.

In the bottom of the ninth, it will be Max Scherzer on the mound to try and close out the game — and the series.

Mid 9th: Dodgers lead 2-1

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Top 9th, 2-1 Dodgers: Cody Bellinger gives Dodgers the lead

Cody Bellinger hits a run-scoring single for the Dodgers in the ninth inning of Game 5.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers are back in front.

After Justin Turner was hit by a pitch and Gavin Lux bounced a single through the right side, Cody Bellinger hammered a two-strike slider at the knees into right field to give the Dodgers the lead again.

The Giants are now making a pitching change, with Game 2 starter Kevin Gausman replacing Camilo Doval.

Meanwhile, Max Scherzer has been warming up in the Dodgers bullpen.

There is still only one out in the inning.

Top 9th: Dodgers lead 2-1

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End 8th, tied 1-1: All knotted up going to the ninth

Dodgers relief pitcher Kenley Jansen runs out of the bullpen to take the mound in the eighth inning of Game 5.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

We are going to the ninth tied.

Kenley Jansen retired the Giants in order in the eighth, striking out Darin Ruf and Buster Posey with a couple 94 mph sinkers to end the inning.

In the top of the ninth, the Dodgers will have Will Smith, Justin Turner and Gavin Lux due up to face Camilo Doval.

End 8th: Tied 1-1

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Mid 8th, tied 1-1: Dodgers strand a couple; Kenley Jansen will pitch the eighth

Mookie Betts celebrates after a single during the eighth inning in Game 5.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

With one out in the eighth, AJ Pollock reached on a infield single that Wilmer Flores couldn’t cleanly field and Mookie Betts picked up his fourth hit of the game on a bouncer back up the middle.

But, the Giants got out of it.

Tyler Rogers struck out Corey Seager, then closer Camilo Doval was summoned to face Trea Turner, getting a lazy fly out to strand both runners.

Pollock was pinch-hitting for Treinen, so the Dodgers have to make a pitching change for the bottom of the inning — and it’s Kenley Jansen coming out of the bullpen.

Mid 8th: Tied 1-1

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End 7th, tied 1-1: Blake Treinen throws scoreless seventh, Tyler Rogers taking the mound for Giants in the eighth

Dodgers relief pitcher Blake Treinen delivers during the seventh inning in Game 5.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Logan Webb’s night is indeed done after seven innings.

His final line: 7 innings, 1 run, 4 hits, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts.

In 14 2/3 innings this series, Webb gave up only one total run.

Tyler Rogers is taking over for the Giants in the eighth.

Meanwhile, Blake Treinen threw a scoreless inning in the bottom of the seventh.

End 7th: Tied 1-1

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Mid 7th, tied 1-1: Blake Treinen replaces Julio Urías to begin bottom of the seventh

Dodgers starting pitcher Julio Urías tosses the ball after allowing a solo home run.
Dodgers starting pitcher Julio Urías tosses the ball after allowing a solo home run to San Francisco’s Darin Ruf in the sixth inning.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Julio Urías’ night is done. Logan Webb’s might be too.

After Webb retired the side in order in the top of the seventh, he was met with a line of hugs and high-fives back in the dugout — a signal he might finished after throwing 106 pitches.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers are making a pitching change to begin the bottom of the seventh, bringing Blake Treinen out of the bullpen.

Urías’ final line in his bulk relief outing: 4 innings, 1 run, 3 hits, 5 strikeouts, 0 walks. He only threw 59 pitches.

Mid 7th: Tied 1-1

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End 6th, tied 1-1: Darin Ruf hits solo home run to even score

San Francisco's Darin Ruf hits a solo home run during the sixth inning.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Julio Urías made his first big mistake of the game.

Darin Ruf made him pay.

Trying to throw a full-count fastball up and in, Urías instead left it down the middle, allowing Ruf to clobbered a game-tying solo home run to straightaway center field.

According to MLB’s Statcast system, Ruf’s ball went an estimated 452 feet — the longest of the postseason this year.

End 6th: Tied 1-1

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Mid 6th, 1-0 Dodgers: Mookie Betts, Corey Seager help Dodgers strike first

Corey Seager hits a run-scoring double in the sixth inning to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers have struck first, and once again, Mookie Betts was in the middle of the action.

With one out in the sixth, Betts lined his third single of the night into left field. On the first pitch of the next at-bat, he stole second as Logan Webb threw a low changeup.

Two pitches later, the Dodgers had the lead, with Corey Seager slicing another changeup the other way for an RBI double.

A stat of note: In the first four games of this series, the team that scored first went on to win.

Mid 6th: Dodgers lead 1-0

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End 5th, no score: Logan Webb, Julio Urías cruise through the fifth

Gavin Lux fouls off a pitch from San Francisco's Logan Webb in the second inning.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers are having a hard time making solid contact against Logan Webb. And in a scoreless fifth inning, it was exemplified on two pitches.

In the inning’s first at-bat, Webb threw Gavin Lux a full-count sinker. Lux jumped away from the plate, apparently thinking the pitch was a slider coming in on his knees. Instead, the ball darted back over the inside corner for a called third strike.

Two batters later, Chris Taylor got a rare fastball over the middle of the plate. But with its late movement, the ball spun away from the barrel of Taylor’s bat, leading to a harmless foul back into the seats.

The at-bat ended two pitches later when Taylor swung through another fastball up the in zone, Webb’s fifth punchout of the night.

The good news for the Dodgers: They’ve worked Webb’s pitch count a little, getting up to 72 through five innings; and their own pitcher is matching each of his zeros, as Julio Urías struck out the side in the bottom half of the inning.

End 5th: No score

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End 4th, no score: Julio Urías strands a runner at third as Giants bring right-handed bats off the bench

Dodgers pitcher Julio Urías celebrates after recording the final out of the fourth inning.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

With Julio Urías in the game, the Giants have gone to their bench as expected.

After right-handed hitting Donovan Solano replaced left-handed Tommy La Stella in the third, the Giants made another righty-for-lefty switch in the fourth, substituting Austin Slater in for Mike Yastrzemski.

Those moves leave the Giants with only one right-handed bat left on the bench, backup catcher Curt Casali.

That will be an advantage for the Dodgers as long as Urías — who gave up a leadoff single to Brandon Crawford in the fourth but stranded him after he advanced to third on a wild pitch and ground out — stays in the game. After that, however, their most trusted high-leverage relievers are all right-handed anyway.

End 4th: No score

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Mid 4th, no score: Logan Webb strands a couple Dodgers baserunners

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Logan Webb and catcher Buster Posey chat during the fourth inning.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers finally got something going at the plate in the fourth inning after Mookie Betts’ second single of the night and a two-out Will Smith walk.

But Logan Webb escaped the jam, getting Justin Turner to send a tapper back to the mound that Webb — despite an off-target throw to first that forced Wilmer Flores to step back across the bag — successfully fielded to end the inning.

Like in Game 1, the Dodgers are having a tough time getting the ball in the air, with only four out of their 10 balls in play getting into the outfield.

A telling stat from the fourth inning alone:

Meanwhile, Max Scherzer just walked down to the Dodgers’ bullpen.

Mid 4th: No score

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End 3rd, no score: Julio Urías begins outing with sharp, scoreless inning

Dodgers pitcher Julio Urías runs out of the bullpen before the start of the third inning against the Giants.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Coming out of the bullpen for the first time all year, Julio Urías looked sharp as ever to begin his outing, retiring the side in order in the third inning.

His velocity — an area of concern last month — was normal, with his fastball sitting right around 94 mph. His changeup looked sharp. And he seemed to be hitting his spots.

He got some help from Gavin Lux out in center field too, with the newly converted outfielder ranging over to make a couple catches.

End 3rd: No score

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Mid 3rd, no score: Logan Webb cruising early as Julio Urías finally enters game

Dodgers batter Cody Bellinger walks out of the batter's box after striking out to Logan Webb.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Dodgers left-hander Julio Urías is finally entering the game in the third inning.

So far, his offense hasn’t been able to solve Logan Webb.

Since Mookie Betts’ leadoff single, Webb has retired eight in a row, completing a scoreless third inning with a couple strikeouts.

His pitch count is in great shape too, sitting at only 36 through three innings.

The Dodgers are hoping, after opening with a couple relievers, that Urías will be able to outduel Webb the rest of the night. To this point, the Giants starter is setting a high bar to match.

Mid 3rd: No score

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End 2nd, no score: Brusdar Graterol strands a couple singles; Julio Urías seemingly set to enter in the third

Dodgers relief pitcher Brusdar Graterol reacts after striking out Logan Webb during the second inning.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers’ opener experiment worked. Just barely.

After Corey Knebel’s scoreless first inning, Brusdar Graterol got out of trouble in the second, keeping the Giants off the scoreboard as Julio Urías got warm in the bullpen, presumably to enter in the third inning.

Kris Bryant led off the inning with an infield single, reaching safely after both his ground ball and shattered bat went flying toward Justin Turner at third, forcing Turner to hesitate before fielding the ball and making his throw.

Two batters later, Wilmer Flores dumped a single into left field, putting two on with only one out.

But then, Graterol got Evan Longoria to pop out before striking out Giants pitcher Logan Webb.

It wasn’t pretty for the Dodgers, but in the first two innings, their relievers held serve.

End 2nd: No score

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Mid 2nd, no score: Dodgers retired in order; Brusdar Graterol taking the mound

Dodgers relief pitcher Brusdar Graterol warms up in the bullpen during the first inning.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Corey Knebel’s outing as the Dodgers’ opener is done. But the team isn’t turning to Julio Urías yet.

Instead, after the Dodgers went down in order in the top of the second, right-hander Brusdar Graterol is being summoned to take the mound in the bottom half of the inning.

Of note: Three of the next four Giants hitters are right-handed.

Mid 2nd: No score

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End 1st, no score: Corey Knebel gets out of trouble in scoreless opening inning

Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts looks up to catch a fly ball hit by San Francisco's Darin Ruf during the first inning.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Corey Knebel’s first inning was not clean, but he got out of it unscathed.

After Tommy La Stella flied out to lead off the inning and Darin Ruf’s deep drive to right died in triple’s alley, Buster Posey hammered a center-cut fastball off the brick wall in right for a two-out double.

In the next at-bat, Knebel fell behind Brandon Crawford 2-0, bringing the crowd to its feet as Brusdar Graterol began warming in the Dodgers’ bullpen.

Knebel escaped, however, getting to a full-count against Crawford before putting him away with a swing-and-miss curveball.

Knebel smacked a fist into his glove as he bounced off the mound.

The question now: Will it be Knebel, Julio Urías or someone else on the mound to begin the second…

End 1st: No score

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Mid 1st, no score: Dodgers squander leadoff single in first

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Logan Webb delivers during the first inning.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Mookie Betts got the Dodgers off to a good start, roping a leadoff single into left field.

But then Corey Seager lined out to left, and Trea Turner hit into a double-play to end the inning.

The good for the Dodgers: Unlike Game 1, they didn’t chase or whiff in the inning, making contact with pitches in the zone on all four swings.

But, they squandered an early chance, and will now send Corey Knebel to the mound to open the game.

Mid 1st: No score

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Game 5 is underway

After San Francisco 49ers players George Kittle, Trey Lance and DJ Jones led a “Beat LA” chant at Oracle Park, the teams took the field to begin the fifth and final game of the NLDS.

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What you need to know about NLDS Game 5: Dodgers pitching plans, Giants lineup options and more

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts looks out from the dugout before Game 5 against the Giants on Thursday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

SAN FRANCISCO — For the final last time this season, the Giants and Dodgers will meet tonight in the decisive fifth game of the NLDS.

The winner will move onto the NLCS. The loser will be eliminated after a 100-plus win season.

As we get ready for first pitch, here’s what you need to know.

First pitch: 6:07 p.m. PDT.

TV: TBS

Lineups:

Dodgers notes: In case you missed it, Julio Urías is not starting after all.

Instead, the Dodgers will use reliever Corey Knebel as an opener before bringing Urías in later in the game.

Manager Dave Roberts said the team made the decision hoping it can give them a matchup advantage over the Giants, who have one of the most versatile lineups in baseball.

Elsewhere, Gavin Lux will start in center field and Cody Bellinger will be at first base, giving the Dodgers two other left-handed hitters, in addition to shortstop Corey Seager, to face Giants right-hander Logan Webb.

After yesterday’s off-day, the Dodgers should have their full assortment of bullpen arms. Game 3 starter Max Scherzer told reporters he will be available too, although Roberts said Wednesday that it will be “highly unlikely” for the team to use their ace in Game 5.

Dodgers reliever Brusdar Graterol heads a soccer ball in the outfield before Game 5 on Thursday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Giants notes: The Giants put out their lineup late, after waiting to see if infielder Tommy La Stella’s sore Achilles felt good enough to play.

Apparently it did, with La Stella slated as the team’s leadoff hitter — and one of three lefties the Giants have in the lineup.

La Stella seems like the most likely player to be substituted out of the game once Urías enters, probably in favor of right-handed hitting Donovan Solano.

Right fielder Mike Yastrzemski also hasn’t played much against left-handed pitchers recently, and could be a candidate to be replaced by right-handed hitting outfielder Austin Slater.

If the Giants make several early switches in the lineup, however, it could hamstring their ability to match up later in the game — though they still have three other lefties on the bench, and most of the Dodgers’ high-leverage relievers are right-handers.

The Giants’ pitching plan is much more simple. Webb will try to replicate his Game 1 gem, while Tyler Rogers, Camilo Doval and others await in the bullpen.

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Vin Scully underlines the significance of Dodgers vs. Giants in Game 5 of the NLDS

Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully speaks as he's inducted into the Dodgers' Ring of Honor.
Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully speaks as he’s inducted into the Dodgers’ Ring of Honor during an on-field ceremony in May 2017.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Vin Scully, the Hall of Fame Dodgers broadcaster who retired in 2016 after 67 years in the booth, tweeted Thursday that “to my knowledge, tonight’s game between the Dodgers and Giants is the most important game in the history of their rivalry. With nearly identical records and so much at stake, I believe this to be the case.”

Told of Scully’s tweet during his pregame news conference, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts laughed and said, “Now I feel pressure … Gosh darn it, Vin.”

The Dodgers and Giants played a three-game playoff for the National League pennant in 1951, a series that ended with Bobby Thomson’s “shot heard round the world,” but those were considered regular-season games. This division series was the first postseason meeting in the 131-year-old rivalry’s history.

“To kind of take my manager’s cap off, it’s a great day, it’s a big game,” Roberts said. “For Vin to say that, no one knows this rivalry better than he does. So it just gives you the gravity of this, what it means. And it’s bigger than just one game, and that’s what’s beautiful about this rivalry, about sports in general.”

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VIDEO | 01:03
Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts on Vin Scully’s tweet

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts talks about Vin Scully calling Game 5 of the NLDS between the Dodgers and Giants.

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Gavin Lux knows the challenges that await in center field at Oracle Park

Gavin Lux will be starting in center field for the Dodgers against the Giants in Game 5 of the NLDS.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

SAN FRANCISCO — Before his first-ever playoff series in 2019, Dodgers center fielder Gavin Lux got some advice from veteran third baseman Justin Turner and former second baseman Chase Utley that he took into Thursday night’s winner-take-all National League Division Series game against the San Francisco Giants.

“They pulled me aside and told me, ‘Every time you step in the box, try to have that feeling that you’re four for four,’ ” the left-handed-hitting Lux said Thursday afternoon. “That’s, like, the best feeling you can have as a hitter. Going up there four for four, there’s no pressure. You feel good.”

Lux did not go four for four in Tuesday night’s 7-2 Game 4 win over the Giants, but he did reach base in all four of his plate appearances, smacking two singles, drawing two walks and scoring a run.

That performance earned Lux the Game 5 start in center field, a formidable task for a converted middle infielder who had not played the outfield in the minor leagues or big leagues until early September.

Few major league stadiums require a center fielder to cover more ground than Oracle Park, which is 391 feet to straight-away center, 399 feet to the gap in left-center and a cavernous 415 feet to right-center, where a brick wall can add a degree of difficulty.

“Yeah, there’s a little more dimensions, it’s a little funky out there with the brick wall and kind of how the walls are angled,” Lux said. “So just being aware of that going into the game and kind of scouting it out during batting practice — that will kind of help me feel more comfortable.”

Dodgers vs. Giants lineup for Game 5 of the NLDS on Oct. 14, 2021.
(Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

Lux’s Game 4 start in center was his first since a Sept. 29 game against the San Diego Padres, when he slammed face-first into the wall at nearly full speed in pursuit of a Wil Myers triple and suffered a neck-stinger that sidelined him for several days.

Such a violent collision can cause inexperienced outfielders to be skittish going toward the wall, but third-base coach Dino Ebel, who works with the team’s outfielders, hasn’t noticed any hesitancy on Lux’s part.

“He said it didn’t bother him,” Ebel said before batting practice Thursday. “He knows where the track is, he knows when he’s getting close to the wall, so doesn’t affect him at all. He’s been taking a lot of reps in center field at home, here, and he feels good. There’s a lot of room to roam, but he has the speed to do it. He’s fine. He’ll be OK.”

Lux did not start the first three division series games against the Giants, who won two of those games by shutout.

But his hot finish to the regular season — Lux hit .375 (18 for 48) with a .995 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in his final 16 games — and his game-ending pinch-hit at-bat in Game 3 prompted Roberts to start him over AJ Pollock in the outfield in Games 4 and 5.

With a stiff wind blowing in from left field in Dodger Stadium, Lux smoked a 106.9-mph drive to left-center field that pretty much everyone in Chavez Ravine thought was a score-tying home run. But the drive died on the warning track to end a 1-0 San Francisco victory.

Lux, a player who seems to generate many meme-worthy moments, stood between first and second base with a look of astonishment on his face as the Giants celebrated the win, a reaction that quickly spread on social media.

Lux said none of his teammates teased him about his latest meme, which Lux was able to laugh about.

“I feel like everybody makes a meme out of me anyways because of all the facial reactions I have,” Lux said. “But that’s just how I am. I’m kind of a goof on the bench a little bit.”

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Dave Roberts explains decision to open with Corey Knebel in Game 5: ‘This gives us the best chance to win’

Los Angeles Dodgers' Corey Knebel pitches against the San Francisco Giants.
Dodgers pitcher Corey Knebel delivers against the San Francisco Giants in Game 2 of the NLDS on Saturday.
(Jed Jacobsohn / Associated Press)

Why did the Dodgers decide to use Corey Knebel as an opener in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Giants, and push originally scheduled starter Julio Urías into a bulk role?

Manager Dave Roberts spent most of his pregame news conference explaining.

The simplest answer, Roberts said, was that the club felt “this gives us the best chance to win.”

“[The Giants] have been the best team in baseball as far as getting matchup advantages,” Roberts said. “This allows us to get a neutral pitcher [in Knebel] — who’s done it, who’s all-in on doing it — potentially giving us some matchups going forward throughout the game.”

Roberts added: “Ultimately, we trust both players can handle this and we expect them to go out and execute. We feel in one game, with the familiarity of both clubs, this gives us the best chance to win tonight … and dictate a little bit more of the matchups.”

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VIDEO | 03:52
Dave Roberts and Gabe Kapler on the Dodgers starting Corey Knebel

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler talk about the Dodgers giving Corey Knebel the NLDS Game 5 start.

Roberts said the plan was formulated Wednesday, and that the decision-making process “went from all the way to the tippy-top of the Dodgers organization on down. It was a decision we all made together.”

That included Urías and Knebel, who Roberts said were both “all-in” when presented with the idea Wednesday afternoon.

“The two biggest players were Corey Knebel and Julio Urías,” Roberts said. “Because if we felt that they felt uncomfortable in any way, we wouldn’t do this.”

While Roberts said Urías “absolutely” did enough during his 20-win, 2.96-ERA performance this season to earn the right to start a winner-take-all game such as Thursday’s, he insisted the late switch wasn’t a slight to the left-hander’s capabilities.

“It’s actually the biggest compliment to Julio,” Roberts argued, noting that the team probably wouldn’t have done it with their other starters.

“Not taking away from our other starters, but they’re very set and fixed in their ways. With Julio, because of what we’ve done with him and how we’ve navigated him throughout his career up to this point, he’s had to be flexible and still perform, and he’s done that. Having that latitude with him and his buy-in, it speaks to his maturity as a major league ball player.

“The only thing Julio cares about is winning the ball game. That’s what people will remember. Not who started the game, in my opinion. If that’s our single overall aligned philosophy and goal, this is the way we feel is best.”

Right-hander Corey Knebel will serve as the Dodgers’ opener ahead of Julio Urías in Game 5 of the National League Division Series tonight.

Though Roberts acknowledged the move might invite criticism, he said he didn’t think it was riskier than simply letting Urías make a normal start.

“You can’t do a job for fear of failure or potential criticism,” Roberts said. “You have to do your job, and whatever you feel is the best way to win a game. I don’t think it’s riskier. It’s different … but it does open up for potential criticism.”

Roberts also shot down the notion that it might have been a piece of gamesmanship from the Dodgers, noting he texted Giants manager Gabe Kapler on Wednesday instead of trying to keep the move secret for as long as possible.

“The bottom line is we still have to go out there and execute and make pitches, catch the baseball, take good at-bats,” Roberts said. “Whatever team does that best will win the game.”

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Giants react to Dodgers pitching plan: ‘I don’t think it’s unexpected’

San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler watches players during a team practice on Wednesday.
(Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

The rest of the baseball world might not have been anticipating the Dodgers’ late change to using Corey Knebel as an opener in Game 5 of the National League Division Series, with originally scheduled starter Julio Urías expected to follow him.

Giants manager Gabe Kapler, however, downplayed the surprise factor.

“It’s understandable,” Kapler said. “I don’t think it was unexpected. It certainly changed the way we were thinking about today’s game, but nothing out of the ordinary.”

Kapler said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts sent him courtesy a text message Wednesday night alerting him to the Dodgers’ change of plans.

“In this particular case, I think Doc felt like it was the right move to send me a text directly,” Kapler said. “I would do the same.”

Giants infielder Evan Longoria minimized the impact the switch made on the Giants’ preparation.

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VIDEO | 01:03
Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts on Vin Scully’s tweet

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts talks about Vin Scully calling Game 5 of the NLDS between the Dodgers and Giants.

“Doesn’t matter at this point,” Longoria said. “We’ve seen every pitcher that they have. I’m sure that tactically speaking, there was probably some thought or changes that went into it from Kap’s side, the managerial side. But as far as we’re concerned, I think Urías comes in the game at some point, probably pretty early. But we’ll be focused on Knebel early in the game.”

Kapler was asked if the Giants are also preparing for the possibility that the Dodgers use another reliever before bringing Urías into the game.

“It’s certainly something we expect is a possibility,” Kapler said. “Trying to predict exactly how the game is going to play out, I don’t think anybody is going to do that. There’s too many variables to consider. … That said, we want to be prepared for anything. We don’t want to be surprised by anything. So we thought through any pitcher in any situation.”

Kapler reiterated that at this point, after 23 previous meetings between the teams, there isn’t much he thinks can catch either side off guard.

“They do know us well, they know our personnel well,” he said. “We have a pretty good understanding of their personnel and their ideas and strategies. Now it’s just watching the game play out and reading and reacting to what the game presents us. I think they’re probably thinking the same.”

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Five things to know about Dodgers Game 5 starter Corey Knebel

Dodgers pitcher Corey Knebel throws against the San Francisco Giants on Sept. 3.
(Tony Avelar / Associated Press)

Corey Knebel will be the Dodgers’ Game 5 starter Thursday night.

Just like everyone expected — not.

The veteran right-hander, of course, likely won’t pitch very long in the winner-take-all showdown against the San Francisco Giants, expected to serve only as an opener ahead of left-hander Julio Urías, who was originally announced as the Dodgers’ starter for the deciding game of the National League Division Series.

The 29-year-old will have the chance to set the tone in their biggest game of the season.

Before he takes the mound, here are five things to know about Knebel.

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Gavin Lux to start in center field again in Game 5

Gavin Lux crosses home to score a run for the Dodgers off a sacrifice fly by Chris Taylor.
Gavin Lux crosses home to score a run for the Dodgers off a sacrifice fly by Chris Taylor in Game 4 of the NLDS.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

SAN FRANCISCO — Logan Webb flummoxed the Dodgers in Game 1 of the National League Division Series, utilizing a heavy mix of sliders and changeups to log 7 2/3 scoreless innings in the Giants’ win.

After the game, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts lamented his offense’s inability to adjust. The Dodgers will look for better results in the rivals’ winner-take-all Game 5 on Thursday with a slightly different lineup.

Gavin Lux and Chris Taylor will start Thursday after not starting against Webb in Game 1. Lux will start in center field and bat sixth after making his first playoff start in center field in Game 4. Taylor will start in left field and bat eighth. Cody Bellinger will play first base and bat between them.

AJ Pollock, who went zero for three with two strikeouts in Game 1, isn’t in the starting lineup for the second straight game. He’s two for 13 with six strikeouts in the playoffs.

Putting Lux, exclusively an infielder his whole life until last month, in the outfield is a defensive gamble that worked out Tuesday. Lux provided a spark in the Dodgers’ 7-2 win, going two for two with two walks. But it’s a bigger risk at Oracle Park than at Dodger Stadium, where center field is less spacious.

The Dodgers announced Thursday morning that Corey Knebel, not Julio Urías, would start the game. Urías is healthy and available. Knebel will be used as an opener for the fifth time this season and for the second time against the Giants. Urías will pitch out of the bullpen at some point after him.

The Giants announced a lineup at around 4:45 p.m. with three left-handers to counter the Dodgers’ pitching strategy. Tommy La Stella, a left-handed hitter who was questionable to play with an Achilles’ heel injury, will start at second base and lead off.

DODGERS
Mookie Betts RF
Corey Seager SS
Trea Turner 2B
Will Smith C
Justin Turner 3B
Gavin Lux CF
Cody Bellinger 1B
Chris Taylor LF
Corey Knebel P

GIANTS
Tommy La Stella 2B
Darin Ruf LF
Buster Posey C
Brandon Crawford SS
Kris Bryant CF
Mike Yastrzemski RF
Wilmer Flores 1B
Evan Longoria 3B
Logan Webb P

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What history says about the Dodgers-Giants winner-take-all NLDS game

Dodgers players and coaches celebrate a run-scoring single by Carlos Ruiz in the seventh inning of Game 5 of the 2016 NLDS.
Dodgers players and coaches celebrate a run-scoring single by Carlos Ruiz in the seventh inning of Game 5 of the 2016 NLDS against the Washington Nationals.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers and San Francisco Giants will play a winner-take-all Game 5 of the National League Division Series on Thursday at Oracle Park. It’s the coda to a series that has proved a worthy heir to the franchises’ two previous playoff meetings, in 1951 and ’62, best-of-three tiebreakers that went the distance and were not decided until the ninth inning of Game 3, once immortally.

The matchup is the second win-or-go-home playoff for the Dodgers in eight days, and the 18th in franchise history. This list has been updated from a story that ran in the Oct. 6 edition of the Los Angeles Times, before L.A.'s play-in wild-card win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

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Dodgers vs. Giants: A golden ticket for MLB. Will the league cash in?

SAN FRANCISCO — For baseball, this is a dream October. For the casual fan, the one attracted by marquee teams and historic rivalries and the drama of a knockout game, this is as good as it gets.

The first game of the 2021 postseason: a winner-take-all wild-card game between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. The latest game, coming Thursday: a winner-take-all finale to the National League Division Series between the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants.

“It’s what baseball wants,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.

The Red Sox and Yankees played on a night with no other ballgames. The Dodgers and Giants will do the same.

For a sport desperate to replenish its customer base with younger and newer fans, this is a golden ticket, an unprecedented marketing opportunity.

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LA Times Today: Dodgers-Giants Game 5 preview

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VIDEO | 07:46
LA Times Today: Dodgers-Giants Game 5 preview

Watch L.A. Times Today at 7 p.m. on Spectrum News 1 on Channel 1 or live stream on the Spectrum News App. Palos Verdes Peninsula and Orange County viewers can watch on Cox Systems on channel 99.

Columnist Dylan Hernández joins “L.A. Times Today” to preview the NLDS Game 5 between the Dodgers and Giants.

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The View from the North: Of course, Dodgers-Giants had to come down to one last game

Mookie Betts follows through on a run-scoring single in the second inning of Game 2.
Mookie Betts follows through on a run-scoring single in the second inning of Game 2 of the NLDS against the Giants.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

All tied up.

Two wins apiece in the series.

One hundred and nine wins each on the season.

And one game to decide it all. The most epic game in the 132-year history between the two teams.

Dodgers versus Giants in San Francisco on an October Thursday night, for the right to advance to the National League Championship Series to face the Atlanta Braves. You might want to clear your calendars.

The Dodgers forced a deciding game, with a decisive 7-2 victory in Game 4.

“This is what baseball wants,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “All the other series are done, so we’re going to be the only show in town.

“If you have a pulse or you’re a sports fan you better be watching Dodgers-Giants. It’s going to be a great one.”

Of course, it had to be this way. The drama of the rivalry dictated it. The narrative of this season demanded it. This series was destined to go the distance; the Giants and Dodgers will use every inning available.

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Julio Urías won’t start Game 5 of NLDS; Dodgers to use Corey Knebel as opener

Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Corey Knebel pitches.
Corey Knebel
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

SAN FRANCISCO — Hours before their winner-take-all Game 5 against the San Francisco Giants, the Dodgers called an audible, announcing Thursday morning that Corey Knebel, not Julio Urías, will start in the biggest game of their season.

Urías is not injured or otherwise unavailable. He will pitch Thursday night at some point. This is just another example of front offices across Major League Baseball searching for every edge, bucking conventional thought even on the grandest stages, in 2021. Urías was notified of the change Thursday morning, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

Knebel will serve as an opener, forcing the Giants to either tailor their lineup, or at least the top of it, to face the right-hander to avoid giving the Dodgers the matchup advantage for an inning or yield a mismatch. Knebel has reverse splits over his career, meaning he is more effective against left-handed hitters than right-handed hitters even though he throws right-handed.

But underlying numbers suggest Knebel been better against righties than lefties this season. For example, he has a lower FIP (2.12 to 3.74) and better strikeout rate (34.6% to 24.5%) against righties. Righties, however, have posted a better BABIP (.300 to .167.) Combined, the metrics indicate lefties have enjoyed better luck.

The numbers suggest Urías, a left-hander, was just about as effective, if not more so, against right-handed hitters this season. Right-handed hitters batted .222 with 11 home runs and a .605 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 553 plate appearances in the regular season. Left-handed batters hit .210 with eight home runs and a .640 OPS in 192 plate appearances.

If the Giants stack their lineup with right-handed hitters, the Dodgers could use another right-handed reliever after Knebel before inserting Urías for multiple innings. The Dodgers, ultimately, are seeking optimal matchups with pitchers who aren’t as good as Urías early on in a low-leverage spots to shrink the game from 27 outs to 24, 21 or even 18 outs before using Urías.

Knebel opened four games during the regular season, including once against the Giants on Sept. 3 when the Dodgers were still regularly opting for bullpen games with a four-man rotation.

The Giants countered with two right-handed hitters (Darin Ruf first and Kris Bryant third) and two left-handed batters (Brandon Belt second and LaMonte Wade Jr. fourth) at the top of the order.

Wade faced Knebel once and didn’t bat again, replaced by the right-handed-hitting Austin Slater with the left-hander Alex Vesia on the mound in the third inning. Knebel gave up two hits, had two strikeouts, and threw 32 pitches in two innings that day at Oracle Park. The Giants went on to win 3-2.

In his three other opener appearances, Knebel threw 1 2/3 innings once and one inning twice. Overall, he gave up one earned run in 5 2/3 innings as an opener. The Dodgers went 3-1 in those games.

Urías has not come out of the bullpen in any of his 33 outings in 2021 — 32 during the regular season and one in Game 2. As a full-time starter, he went 20-3 with a 2.96 ERA in a career-high 185 2/3 innings.

The Dodgers did not indicate that Urías wouldn’t start until the announcement was made on Twitter. He was the listed starter and manager Dave Roberts said Urías would take the mound. On Wednesday, Urías spoke to the media on a Zoom call from Dodger Stadium before the Dodgers flew to San Francisco as if he would start.

Urías threw just 72 pitches in the Dodgers’ Game 2 win Saturday. He’ll take the mound Thursday, whenever that is, on regular rest.

Logan Webb will start for San Francisco after tossing 7 2/3 scoreless innings in Game 1. Or at least that’s what’s listed for now. Perhaps the Giants will play the same game and change their plans.

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Betting odds and lines for Dodgers vs. Giants in Game 5 of NLDS

Here are the latest betting lines and odds for Dodgers vs. Giants in Game 5 of the National League Division Series on Thursday at Oracle Park in San Francisco:

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Dodgers vs. Giants: Five observations going into winner-take-all Game 5

Dodgers relief pitcher Kenley Jansen celebrates with teammates in the dugout.
Dodgers relief pitcher Kenley Jansen celebrates with teammates in the dugout during an NL wild-card win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Oct. 6.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

For the second time this postseason, the Dodgers will face a winner-take-all contest when they face the San Francisco Giants on Thursday in Game 5 of the National League Division Series.

While both teams would have liked to wrap up the series sooner, neither seemed all that surprised that a series between the two clubs with the best records in baseball this season — and whose battle in the NL West division race was decided by one game — is coming down to a decisive fifth game.

“I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I was hoping we would win in three straight. But ... the way that the regular season played out, absolutely, I’m sure it was inevitable, yeah.”

Echoed Logan Webb, who will be the Giants’ Game 5 starter: “We knew it was gonna come down to a Game 5.”

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Dodgers’ chase of Giants comes down to one final game in NLDS

Dodgers baserunner Will Smith, right, is forced out at home by San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey.
Dodgers baserunner Will Smith, right, is forced out at home by San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey Game 4 of the NLDS on Tuesday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

SAN FRANCISCO — It just had to come down to this, didn’t it?

All summer long, the Dodgers chased the San Francisco Giants and all summer long the underdog Giants held the favorites off, just long enough into the fall to claim the National League West crown on the final day of the regular season and end the Dodgers’ eight-year division reign.

So, it’s only right that first postseason meeting in the 131-year-old rivalry’s history will be decided in a winner-take-all Game 5 in the National League Division Series on Thursday. It seemed almost inevitable.

“I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said with a smile Wednesday. “I was hoping we would win in three straight.”

The clubs will take the field at Oracle Park for their most important clash since they moved from New York to California together ahead of the 1958 season.

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