A 107-win team vs. a 106-win team. They have 109 each when accounting for postseason games. Rivals for 133 seasons, connected not just by their origins in New York but also through their pioneering roles in moving west. Just the fifth instance in baseball history where teams with 100 or more wins each will be facing off in a winner-take-all postseason game.
It is hard to get much bigger than this.
Who: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Francisco Giants
What: Game 5 of a National League division series
When: 9:07 p.m. Eastern
Where: Oracle Park in San Francisco
Why: The winner will advance to the National League Championship Series against Atlanta
How can I watch? The game will be broadcast on TBS. The TBS stream of it will be available on some streaming services, like Hulu Live and YouTube TV. It will also be available for some through TBS.com.
The Dodgers’ Julio Urias is about as established as a starting pitcher can be. He made 32 starts this season, without a relief appearance, and went 20-3 with a 2.96 E.R.A. Then he started and beat the Giants in Game 2 of this division series.
Yet his team decided — “from the tippy top of the Dodgers organization on down,” said Manager Dave Roberts — that Urias, 25, was not the best option to start the winner-take-all Game 5. They’ll go with an opener, Corey Knebel.
“Doesn’t mean it’s riskier, it’s different,” said Roberts, who texted Giants Manager Gabe Kapler last night to let him know. “But it does open up for potential criticism, which I’m imagining is already out there.”
He’s right about that; this certainly seems like a classic case of a very smart organization outsmarting itself. Roberts said Urias was the only starter he would use this way, based on Urias’s track record of being flexible — he has come out of the bullpen for 15 of his 19 career postseason appearances, and closed out the N.L.C.S. and World Series last fall.
Knebel, a former All-Star closer with Milwaukee, has done well in four tries as an opener, allowing one earned run in five and two-thirds innings. He’s a righty and Urias is a lefty.
“The Giants have been a tremendous ball club all year, and just speaking to the offensive side, they have been the best team in baseball as far as getting matchup advantages, platoon advantages,” Roberts said, adding that the strategy should help in “potentially giving us some matchups going forward throughout the game.”
Roberts and the Dodgers’ front office know their team much better than any fan or member of the news media. But it’s still jarring to see, and I asked Roberts about the downside of simply letting Urias start, as usual.
“There’s downside in him starting, if he were to start the game, because you could look at familiarity,” Roberts said. “He just faced this team five days ago. Those guys stacking and setting the matchups that they want.
“There’s downside in doing it the way we chose to do this. Corey’s never started a playoff game. But I think that, ultimately, we trust both players can handle this.”
So there you have it. Related note: Today is the 56th anniversary of Game 7 of the 1965 World Series, when another Dodgers lefty, Sandy Koufax, started against the Minnesota Twins. Koufax fired a nine-inning shutout, on two days’ rest.
Baseball is endlessly fascinating, maybe today more than ever. But boy how times have changed.