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Dodgers send a rested starting rotation against the Braves

Atlanta is in town for three games, beginning Monday night

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat the the Colorado Rockies 7-0. Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

The Dodgers face two division leaders on the schedule this week. But rather than have their top three healthy starting pitchers face the team they’re chasing next weekend in San Francisco, the trio of Julio Urías, Walker Buehler, and Max Scherzer will all start against the Braves at home instead.

Andre Jackson and Mitch White were inserted for weekend starts against the Rockies, but had the Dodgers started Urías on four days rest on Sunday, those top three starters all would have been in line to pitch against the Giants.

“It’s certainly going to be a big series [in San Francisco], but I think making sure that we take care of guys — Julio, Walker, namely — as far as giving them an extra day to understand and appreciate what they have in store for them the rest of the season,” manager Dave Roberts said Sunday. “There’s still plenty of games that we’ve got to take care of our business.”

Urías and Buehler will still face the Giants, but Scherzer will miss that series.

After next weekend’s showdown in San Francisco, the Dodgers and Giants will have 23 games remaining but none against each other. But the driving factor for having the top three pitch against the Braves was the extra day of rest.

Dodgers pitching starts

Year 4 days rest 5 days rest
Year 4 days rest 5 days rest
2015 75 52
2016 57 56
2017 45 70
2018 50 74
2019 42 75
2020 7 33
2021 50 50
Source: Baseball Reference

This is not new for the Dodgers, who have used more starters on five days rest than four days rest for each of the previous four seasons. This year is actually break even on that front, with 50 Dodgers starts on four days rest and 50 on five days rest.

There’s plenty of noise in there, with 31 other games to account for. Using Baseball Reference splits, Mitch White’s start on Sunday counts as one of the 17 in the “6+ days” category, since his previous major league outing was August 18. But his Sunday start was actually on four days rest, since he started on Tuesday in the minors. Bullpen games and openers have wreaked havoc on the splits, with 14 “starts” coming with 0-3 days rest.

Limiting things to only four and five days rest at the very least is a good enough approximation for actual starters, and represents a choice rather than, say, an injury, a minor league assignment, or something of that nature.

Ten of Buehler’s 26 starts have come on four days rest this season. Urías, already at 17 more innings than any season in his career, has started nine of his 25 starts on four days rest. Scherzer is closer to an even split with 11 of his 24 starts on four days rest, but Wednesday will make four out of six starts with the Dodgers on five days rest.

“Coming off last year, and what guys are taking on this year, whenever you can kind of give them an extra day, curtail an inning here and there, it just only seems like upside,” Roberts said.

Dodgers pitchers on the season lead MLB in ERA (3.04) and FIP (3.61).

Who those rested big three pitchers will face next is a red-hot Atlanta team that has taken control in the National League East. The Braves just took two of three from the Giants, and have won 18 of their last 23 games for a 4½-game lead in the division.

Atlanta president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos was as busy as anyone in July, including acquiring an entirely new starting outfield after the All-Star break. Old friend Joc Pederson made a fantastic catch at the right field wall to secure Friday’s win over the Giants, and has been reasonably productive at the plate with the Braves, just like his new outfield teammates Jorge Soler and Adam Duvall.

New outfield with Braves

Soler: .283/.396/.543, 150 wRC+
Pederson: .252/.343/.412, 105 wRC+
Duvall: .196/.295/.435, 93 wRC+

The Dodgers will face left-hander Drew Smyly on Monday and lefty Max Fried on Wednesday. A rematch of Game 3 of the 2020 World Series is in between, with Buehler and Charlie Morton facing off on Tuesday.

Along with old friend Alex Wood likely on the docket next weekend in San Francisco, that’s three southpaws the Dodgers face this week, a chance to turn around their subpar performance against left-handers this season.

On the season, Los Angeles is hitting .232/.310/.414 against southpaws, a 98 wRC+ that is just a tick below league average. In August, it’s up to a 102 WRC+ (.242/.311/.433), buoyed by the arrival of Trea Turner. But it could be better.

Mookie Betts is back off the injured list now, and most of the Dodgers regulars got their rest over the weekend. Everyone is active such that they can field a lineup with the eight best hitters, which right now doesn’t include Cody Bellinger, especially against lefties.

Two first-place teams are on the docket this week. Time for the Dodgers to use the best possible lineup.

Broadcast note

Monday’s series opener will be televised by ESPN, a national telecast that won’t be blacked out in the Los Angeles television market but will be blacked out in Atlanta. Mike Monaco is on play-by-play for ESPN, with analyst Xavier Scruggs. The game will also be broadcast on SportsNet LA.

Dodgers-Braves schedule

  • Monday, 7:10 p.m.: Julio Urías vs. Drew Smyly (SportsNet LA, ESPN)
  • Tuesday, 7:10 p.m.: Walker Buehler vs. Charlie Morton (SportsNet LA)
  • Wednesday, 7:10 p.m.: Max Scherzer vs. Max Fried (SportsNet LA)