When the National League Division Series shifts to Petco Park in San Diego on Friday night, the Dodgers will have Austin Barnes behind the plate catching Tony Gonsolin in Game 3 against the Padres, manager Dave Roberts said on a Zoom call Thursday afternoon.
Barnes had his best offensive season in five year, hitting .212/.324/.380, a 105 wRC+ while matching his career high with eight home runs (in 52 fewer plate appearances than in 2017) and was second on the team with a 12.7-percent walk rate.
With Barnes behind the plate, Will Smith remains in the Dodgers lineup as designated hitter, which he did 24 times during the regular season. The DH allowed Smith to set a career high in games (137) and plate appearances (578) this season, the latter trailing only Sean Murphy of the A’s among major league catchers, while also managing the wear and tear of catching.
Smith as DH plus Thursday’s travel day gives him two days in a row without having to kneel behind the plate for nine innings. Three of his regular season DH starts came immediately either before or after an off day. For this series, it means Smith won’t catch three days in a row should the NLDS go the distance. Smith last caught three days in a row on September 11-13.
“Right now my body feels good, feels strong,” Smith said Wednesday of his occasional DH duties. “I think more importantly, it just keeps my bat in the lineup and keeps my timing and all that in check.”
Smith at designated hitter necessitates some other lineup changes. Roberts said Max Muncy would play second base, which leaves third base for Justin Turner, who was the DH in Games 1 and 2.
Given that Roberts said Wednesday night that Chris Taylor would start in left field and Trayce Thompson in center in Game 3, that means Gavin Lux will sit against Padres left-hander Blake Snell, as will Cody Bellinger.
Gonsolin on a Zoom call Thursday said he pitched four innings in a simulated game on Saturday at Dodger Stadium. Roberts said Gonsolin is built up to roughly 75 pitches, so the bullpen will be heavily involved.
“I think the good thing about our pen coming off an off day is Dustin [May] is back online, Andrew Heaney is back online, and the other guys are available,” Roberts said Thursday.
Game 3 starts at 5:37 p.m. PT on Friday, and will be televised by FS1.