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Dodgers tab left-hander Julio Urías to start the NLCS Game 3 against the Atlanta Braves

Julio Urías will start Game 3 of the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday.
Julio Urías will start Game 3 of the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Julio Urías will start Game 3 of the National League Championship Series for the Dodgers on Wednesday, the team announced.

It will be the left-handed pitcher’s first start of the postseason and third appearances of these playoffs. In two relief outings in the first two rounds, Urías allowed a single unearned run over eight total innings while striking out 11.

The decision all but eliminates the possibility of Urías pitching in Tuesday’s Game 2, which will be started by Tony Gonsolin after Clayton Kershaw was a late scratch because of back spasms. The Dodgers also won’t have Dustin May available for Tuesday’s game after he pitched 1⅔ innings in Monday’s Game 1.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday prior to the team’s announcement that Urías will start Game 3, manager Dave Roberts said Kershaw’s injury had made the Dodgers reconsider Urías’ swingman role out of the bullpen.

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Wednesday will be Urías’ first postseason start since Game 4 of the 2016 NLCS, when he allowed four runs in 3⅔ innings to the Chicago Cubs. During the regular season he went 3-0 with a 3.27 earned-run average in 11 appearances (10 starts).

His numbers this year would have been better too, if not for repeated struggles at the beginning of his outings. Of the 20 earned runs Urías allowed, 10 came in the first inning of games.

The Dodgers have not said who will start any of the games later in the series, though Kershaw could be available as soon as Game 4 and Walker Buehler could pitch on normal rest in Game 6.

Déjà vu

Braves closer Mark Melancon caught a home-run ball off the bat of Ozzie Albies in the ninth inning for the second straight game Tuesday night, his running catch in the bullpen of the second baseman’s solo shot in Game 2 coming on the heels of his stationary catch of Albies’ two-run shot on the bullpen mound in Game 1.

“Yeah, I’ve noticed, he’s had two really good catches the last two nights,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I guess he’s playing the card. He’s well-positioned. He knows where to play Ozzie.”

Fox Sports broadcaster Joe Buck noted that Melancon, who got AJ Pollock to ground out to end the game with the tying run on third, “has caught more home runs [two] than he’s allowed [one] this season.”

Braves down Duvall

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The Braves will have to make do without one of their most powerful bats for the rest of the series. Outfielder Adam Duvall was removed from the NLCS roster Tuesday after straining his left oblique muscle in the opener.

Duvall was a critical part of the Braves’ potent lineup. He hit 16 homers and drove in 33 runs in the regular season. He was much quieter in the postseason, held to two for 20 at the plate.

Braves manager Brian Snitker said that Duvall, who left Monday’s game after fouling off a pitch from the Dodgers’ Buehler in the second inning, was upset.

“He’s hurt, just to not be able to be here with the guys and see this thing through,” Snitker said of his veteran player. “I hate it for him because he’s such a great kid, and he’s worked so hard. It’s a tough injury.”

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The Braves will rely on rookie Cristian Pache, a 21-year-old who had made one MLB start prior to Tuesday, to cover ground in the roomy Globe Life Field outfield in the wake of Duvall’s injury.

Duvall was replaced on the roster by Johan Camargo. A switch-hitting infielder, he batted .200 (24 for 120) in the regular season. The last time he played in the postseason, he was 0 for 15 in the 2018 National League Division Series the Braves lost to the Dodgers.

Lombard interviews with Tigers

George Lombard recently interviewed for the Detroit Tigers’ managerial vacancy, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, the second straight offseason the Dodgers’ first base coach has interviewed for a managerial opening. Last year, the Pirates considered him for their opening before naming Derek Shelton to the position.

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“George is going to be a major league manager,” Roberts said of Lombard, a former six-year big leaguer who joined the Dodgers staff ahead of the 2016 season.

“I think his understanding of baseball, understanding of the player, the ability to communicate with players, the idea to continue to grow in information with the baseball ops, all that stuff he’s open to and willing and eager. He’s very positive. I have no doubt in my mind he’ll be a major league manager, whether it’s sooner or later.”

Role play for May

Dustin May, who made one start and two relief appearances in the Dodgers’ first six playoff games, is pretty sure his role won’t be affected by Kershaw’s injury.

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“I’m not exactly sure what [my role] is going to be moving forward, but I’m sure it’s not going to change too much,” May said before Game 2. “I would assume it would stay the same.”

May threw 1 2/3 innings and 21 pitches in relief Monday. Roberts said May wouldn’t be available Tuesday. Depending on when Kershaw returns to the rotation, May could start Game 4 or Game 5. Or he could continue to pitch in relief, giving him a chance to influence more games.

“I’m ready to go whenever my name is called,” May said. “I’m completely comfortable in the bullpen. Being there last year really helped me with being able to create a routine. I’m completely comfortable being a starter.

“It honestly doesn’t matter to me as long as I’m able to be used and put in the important parts of the game. If they feel like it’s a good spot for me to be in and I’m able to go in and get some outs, then that’s what I’m going to do.”

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Acuna Matata

Pablo Sandoval, the 34-year-old corner infielder who won three World Series rings with San Francisco and signed with Atlanta on Sept. 13, has been impressed with Ronald Acuna Jr., the 22-year-old Braves outfielder and leadoff man.

“I call him a six-tool player because he can run, he can throw, he can hit for power, he can hit for average [and play great defense] … and he can have fun in the game,” Sandoval said. “No matter the situation, he can be 0 for 4 with four strikeouts and still have fun in the game. That’s one of the things that makes him a special kid.”

Staff writers Mike Digiovanna and Maria Torres contributed to this report.


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