LOS ANGELES — Julio Urias, who has plunged into the Cy Young debate with another dominant season as a full-time starting pitcher, will get the ball for the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the National League Division Series against San Diego Padres’ Mike Clevinger.
Clayton Kershaw meets former teammate Yu Darvish in Game 2, with neither team committing to their rotation thereafter.
It was widely believed that the Padres’ order came from their wildcard series win over the New York Mets, but the Dodgers toyed with the idea of flipping Urias and Kershaw. The latter scenario would have given the Dodgers an opportunity to field both Kershaw and Urias in a potential Game 5, since Kershaw would be scheduled for the normal break start and Urias can theoretically bounce back fast enough to be available from the bullpen. They instead went the conventional route, with Urias lining up to start Game 5 and Kershaw queuing to follow him throughout the postseason.
“You could basically flip a coin,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “In our eyes, both are aces. I think Julio has been fantastic for us all year. We all felt good when we made the decision to give him this opportunity. Clayton feels good starting Game 2 and moving on from there. “
The Padres and Dodgers each practiced Monday afternoon at Dodger Stadium, although the Dodgers were going through a more extensive session five days after their last game. With Game 1 on Tuesday — the first pitch is 6:37 p.m. PT on FS1 — the Dodgers were still pondering key decisions.
They were still unsure if ex-closer Craig Kimbrel would crack the NLDS squad or if Miguel Vargas would sneak in off the bench as a right-handed option. They also waited for setup man Blake Treinen (shoulder) to get a medical clean and for utility man Chris Taylor (neck) to come through live batting practice healthy. Dustin May, who has been struggling with back strains but has pitched in simulated games, is healthy enough to pitch, Roberts said, but the Dodgers don’t know if they’ll carry him this round.
The Padres’ rotation is much easier to see, with manager Bob Melvin turning to Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove — in either order — as the series moves from San Diego to Games 3 and 4. Snell struggled through six walks on his start in Game 2 on Saturday, but Musgrove dominated through seven one-hit innings in the deciding Game 3 on Sunday. At one point, perhaps to upset his rhythm, Mets manager Buck Showalter asked the umpires for a thorough review of Musgrove to make sure he wasn’t throwing with an illegal foreign substance.
Melvin hasn’t raised the issue with Showalter and doesn’t think he needs to.
“He texted congratulations after the game and I thanked him,” Melvin said. “We’ve got another series coming up here, so it’s kind of a water under the bridge for me.”
The Dodgers have dominated the Padres of late, winning their last nine games against them in 2021 and 14 of 19 in 2022, in which they have outplayed them 109-47. But the Padres look like another team is stepping up. Josh Hader has been looking good lately, Juan Soto has shown signs of returning to his usual self and the Padres have seen Trent Grisham, a .184/.284/.341 hitter this season, awaken in New York to life. Grisham had sat against left-handers on the stretch, but Melvin indicated he would start in Games 1 and 2 against left-handers Urias and Kershaw.
“There’s going to be a lot of emotion,” Roberts said of a series that will see two division rivals pinned 125 miles apart. “It’s going to be a very intense series.”