A team with 107 wins versus a team with 106 wins. They have 109 each if they take post-season games into account. Rivals for 133 seasons, linked not only by their New York origins, but also by their pioneering role in moving west. Only the fifth time in baseball history where teams with 100 or more wins each face each other in a winner-take-all postseason game.
Much bigger than this is hard to get.
WHO: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Francisco Giants
What: Game 5 of a National League Division Series
When: 9:07 pm Easter
True: Oracle Park in San Francisco
Why: The winner advances to the National League Championship Series against Atlanta
How can I watch? The game is broadcast on TBS. Its TBS stream will be available on some streaming services, such as Hulu Live and YouTube TV. It will also be available for some through TBS.com.
Julio Urias of the Dodgers 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 ERA. He then started and defeated the Giants in Game 2 of this division series.
But his team decided – “from the tippy top of the Dodgers organization down,” said manager Dave Roberts – that Urias, 25, was not the best option to start the winner-take-all Game 5. 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 to potential criticism, which I imagine is already there.”
He is 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’ track record of being flexible – he’s come out of the bullpen for 15 of his 19 career postseason appearances, closing the NLCS and World last fall. Series off.
Knebel, a former All-Star closer with Milwaukee, did well in four opener attempts, earning a run in five and two-thirds innings. He is right-handed and Urias is left-handed.
“The Giants have been a great ball club all year, and just by talking to the attacking side they’ve been the best team in baseball in terms of getting matchup advantages, platoon advantages,” Roberts said, adding that the strategy should help with “possibly allowing us to get some matchups over the course of the game.”
Roberts and the Dodgers front office know their team far better than any fan or member of the news media. But it’s still shocking to watch, and I asked Roberts about the downside of just letting Urias start, as usual.
“There’s a downside to starting him, if he started the game, because you could be looking at fame,” Roberts said. “He faced this team five days ago. Those guys are stacking and setting the matchups they want.
“There’s a downside to doing the way we’ve chosen this. Corey never started a playoff game. But I think in the end we trust that both players can handle this.”
So there you have it. Related Note: Today marks 56 years since Game 7 of the 1965 World Series, when Sandy Koufax, another Dodgers left, started against the Minnesota Twins. Koufax fired a nine-inning shutout on two days of rest.
Baseball is endlessly fascinating, perhaps more today than ever. But boy, how times have changed.