Julio Urias, who thrust himself into the Cy Young discussion 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, opposing the San Diego Padres‘ Mike Clevinger.
Clayton Kershaw will face former teammate Yu Darvish in Game 2, with neither team settling on its rotation thereafter.
The Padres’ order was widely assumed coming off their wild-card-series win over the New York Mets, but the Dodgers were toying with the idea of flipping Urias and Kershaw. The latter scenario would have given the Dodgers a chance to utilize both Kershaw and Urias in a potential Game 5, given that Kershaw would be lined up to start on normal rest and Urias can theoretically bounce back quickly enough to be available out of the bullpen. They instead went the conventional route, with Urias lined up to start Game 5 and Kershaw in line to follow him throughout the postseason.
“You could essentially flip a coin,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “They’re both aces in our eyes. I think Julio has been fantastic for us all year. Making that decision to give him that opportunity, we all felt good about it. Clayton feels good about starting Game 2 and going on from there.”
The Padres and Dodgers each worked out from Dodger Stadium on Monday afternoon, though the Dodgers, five days removed from their last game, went through a more extensive session. With Game 1 on tap for Tuesday — first pitch is 6:37 p.m. PT on FS1 — the Dodgers were still pondering key decisions.
They still weren’t certain if ex-closer Craig Kimbrel would crack the NLDS roster or if Miguel Vargas would sneak in as a right-handed-hitting option off the bench. They were also waiting for setup man Blake Treinen (shoulder) to be medically cleared and for utility man Chris Taylor (neck) to get through live batting practice healthy. Dustin May, who has been dealing with tightness in his back but has been pitching 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 a lot easier to discern, with manager Bob Melvin turning to Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove — in whatever order — when the series shifts to Games 3 and 4 from San Diego. Snell struggled through six walks in his Game 2 start against the Mets on Saturday, but Musgrove dominated through seven one-hit innings in the decisive Game 3 on Sunday. At one point, perhaps in an effort to throw off his rhythm, Mets manager Buck Showalter asked umpires for a thorough check of Musgrove to ensure he wasn’t pitching with an illegal foreign substance.
Melvin hasn’t addressed the issue with Showalter and doesn’t believe he needs to.
“He texted congratulations after the game and I thanked him,” Melvin said. “We have another series coming up here, so for me that’s kind of water under the bridge.”
The Dodgers have dominated the Padres of late, winning their last nine games against them in 2021 and 14 of 19 in 2022, during which they outscored them 109-47. But the Padres look like a different team heading in. Josh Hader has looked sharp lately, Juan Soto has shown signs of getting back to his usual self, and the Padres saw Trent Grisham, a .184/.284/.341 hitter this season, come alive in New York. Grisham had been sitting against lefties down the stretch, but Melvin indicated he’d start against the left-handed Urias and Kershaw in Games 1 and 2.
“There’s going to be a lot of emotions,” Roberts said of a series pinning two division rivals separated by 125 miles. “It’s going to be a very intense series.”