LOS ANGELES -- Before Sunday’s game against the Rockies, the Dodgers announced their starting rotation for the upcoming three-game series against the Braves at Dodger Stadium.
There were no surprises, as Julio Urías will start on Monday, Walker Buehler takes the bump on Tuesday and Max Scherzer wraps up the series on Wednesday. The Braves, meanwhile, will go with left-hander Drew Smyly on Monday, right-hander Charlie Morton on Tuesday and ace southpaw Max Fried on Wednesday.
On the surface, it just looks like three really good pitching matchups between two teams that met in last season’s National League Championship Series and are trying to get back to that point again this season. But with a pivotal three-game series against the Giants looming next weekend, the Dodgers’ pitching rotation against the Braves has a direct impact on who they’ll have available in San Francisco.
With Urías starting on Monday on an extra day's rest, he will now pitch on Saturday against the Giants. David Price will likely provide the bulk innings in a bullpen game on Friday. Buehler will then get the ball in the series finale on Sunday. But with Scherzer pitching on Wednesday, he won’t be available to pitch against the Giants. He’ll instead pitch next Monday against the Cardinals.
While that’s how it currently lines up, the Dodgers did have an opportunity to have their top three starters pitch against the Giants. Instead, they decided to stick with their plan, giving their rotation an extra day of rest.
In the biggest series of the season, why didn’t the Dodgers go with their top three arms?
“It’s certainly going to be a big series,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts explained. “But I think making sure that you take care of the guys, Julio and Walker, namely, as far as giving them an extra day to understand and appreciate what they have in store for the rest of the season. There are still plenty of games that we have to take care of our business.”
Giving their starters an extra day of rest isn’t unusual for the Dodgers. In fact, it has become the norm this season. Urías has made 13 starts on five days’ rest this season, the most on the team. Buehler has made 12 on extra rest and only 10 on the normal four days’ rest. Like Roberts said, a big reason for the philosophy is to try and limit Urías’ workload, which is already significantly higher than any other year in his career.
The Dodgers are also taking into account that they had a lengthy October last season and expect to play deep into the postseason yet again in 2021. It’s possible that their decision to not go with their top three starters against the Giants comes back to haunt them. It could be the series that determines whether they win a ninth consecutive division title or play in the National League Wild Card Game.
Either way, a series in early September -- even one of this magnitude -- won’t change the Dodgers’ pitching philosophy.
“I think the thought is to make sure that our guys are performing in an optimum kind of rest,” Roberts said. “We’ll bet on that.”