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Dodgers will use bullpen game in NLCS Game 1 vs. Braves

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Corey Knebel starts, Tony Gonsolin will likely see bulk innings

Division Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v San Francisco Giants - Game Five Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Max Scherzer closed out the Dodgers’ NLDS win against the Giants with his first career save. The cost of that was pushing him and the rest of the starting rotation back, and using a bullpen game in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series against the Braves on Saturday night in Atlanta.

Corey Knebel, who started Game 5 of the NLDS on Thursday and pitched one inning, will also start for the Dodgers on Saturday. Left-hander Max Fried starts for the Braves in Game 1, with a first pitch of 5:08 p.m. PT on TBS.

The Dodgers have 13 pitchers on their NLCS roster, adding true relievers Justin Bruihl and Evan Phillips on Saturday.

The decision on the Dodgers side wasn’t announced until Saturday morning, the day of Game 1. Manager Dave Roberts said Friday the team was waiting to see how the off-day workout went before laying out the pitching plan.

Roberts said Saturday Scherzer was tired after the bullpen outing, and they wanted to make sure he had an extra day of rest.

“I have zero experience of trying to pitch on one day rest. I do have experience pitching on two days rest, in ‘19,” Scherzer said Saturday. “I knew that if I was going to pitch today I was going to be limited in some form or capacity.

“That’s where we talked about what made the most sense to not pitch in Game 1, then I’m on a full slate.”

Roberts said Tony Gonsolin will figure prominently in a bullpen game, taking a bulk number of innings. Gonsolin did not pitch in the NLDS.

Scherzer struck out 10 in seven innings in Game 3 of the NLDS on Monday night at Dodger Stadium, and Saturday will have him on standard, four days rest. But in between starts, instead of a side bullpen session, Scherzer threw 13 pitches in the ninth inning to finish off Game 5, a much more intense situation than usual between-starts fare.

“I’ve got to come in [Friday], see how my arm feels, and then make a decision,” Scherzer told reporters in San Francisco on Thursday night.

“We knew going into this if we used him [in Game 5] there might be a cost,” Roberts said Thursday.

Roberts said Scherzer will start Game 2 on Sunday, with Walker Buehler and Julio Urías in Games 3 and 4 at Dodger Stadium, all getting extra rest.

Knebel is the second Dodgers pitcher to start consecutive games in the same postseason. Clayton Kershaw started Game 5 of the NLCS in 2017, then in Game 1 of the World Series, but had four days rest in between starts. Knebel has one day in between his two starts, but of course his outings are much shorter.