Dodgers have their top arms lined up to battle Braves, not Giants
The Dodgers will have their top three pitchers — Julio Urías, Walker Buehler and Max Scherzer — lined up to start a big three-game series against the National League East-leading Atlanta Braves on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
But if they had started the trio on regular rest this past week, Urías would have pitched against Colorado on Sunday, and Urías, Buehler and Scherzer would have been lined up to start an even bigger series at National League West-leading San Francisco next Friday through Sunday. Instead, only Urías and Buehler will pitch against the Giants.
To manager Dave Roberts, it’s more important to give Urías, a 25-year-old who has thrown a career-high 144-2/3 innings, 65 more than his previous high of 79-2/3 innings in 2019, and Buehler, a 27-year-old in his fourth full season, extra rest when he can.
MLB’s playoff format means the Dodgers could face the very real prospect of being relegated to a wild-card playoff contest even if they win 100 games.
“Making sure you take care of the guys, Julio and Walker, namely, as far as giving them an extra day to appreciate and understand what they have in store for them the rest of the season [is important],” Roberts said.
“There’s still plenty of games where we have to take care of our business, and we’ll have two of those guys against the Giants. The thought is to make sure our guys are performing optimally and with rest. We’ll bet on that.”
The Dodgers have made a point of giving starters extra rest, even if that means filling in some days with “bullpen games.” Pitchers have made 50 starts this season on four days’ rest and 67 starts on five days’ rest or more.
“Coming off [a pandemic-shortened 60-game season] last year, understanding what guys are taking on this year, you give them an extra day here or there, it only seems like there is upside,” Roberts said.
One of the few bright spots in Sunday’s 5-0 loss to Colorado was starter Mitch White and reliever Brusdar Graterol combining to escape a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fourth inning.
Sam Hilliard led off with a single, Dom Nunez walked and Antonio Senzatela dropped a bunt in front of the plate. Austin Barnes grabbed the ball and had a play at third, but the catcher had to double-pump to avoid charging first baseman Max Muncy, who was in his line of fire, and his throw was late.
But White struck out Connor Joe, and Graterol struck out Brendan Rodgers with an 88-mph slider and got Charlie Blackmon to pop to third to end the inning. Graterol retired the side in order on six pitches in the fifth, and he has a 2.45 earned-run average in his last 16 games.
“That was a highlight of the day,” Roberts said of Graterol. “He’s just continued to grow. Last year he came in with a big splash and pitched some big innings for us through the World Series, and I think right now, where he’s at mentally, physically, with his delivery, he’s as good as we’ve seen.”
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