The Los Angeles Dodgers will face the Atlanta Braves in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series Saturday evening in Cumberland, Georgia, with Corey Knebel — not Max Scherzer — their starting pitcher.
When manager Dave Roberts met with reporters on a Zoom call at 5:30 p.m. Friday, he said Scherzer would go to Truist Park, “play catch, get treatment, and if he says he’s good enough to go and feels like can he take down a start, then he’ll be our Game 1 starter.”
But on Saturday, the Dodgers announced that Knebel would start the game. The right-handed relief pitcher also started Game 5 of the Dodgers’ National League Division Series on Thursday as an “opener,” pitching the first inning of the Dodgers’ 2-1 victory.
The element of doubt stemmed from Scherzer pitching the ninth inning of Thursday’s Game 5.
Roberts also said that if Scherzer was unable to pitch Saturday, the Dodgers would have a bullpen game that right-hander Tony Gonsolin “would be a big part of.”
Knebel was 4-0 this season with a 2.45 earned-run average and three saves.
Max Fried will start for the Braves. The left-hander was 14-7 with a 3.04 ERA in the regular season and was credited with the victory in Atlanta’s 3- 0 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers last Saturday in Game 2 of their NLDS, pitching six shutout innings, allowing three hits, striking out nine and not walking a batter.
Fried faced the Dodgers twice in the 2021 regular season with a 1-0 record and 2.25 ERA.
Fried is a 2012 graduate of Harvard-Westlake School in Studio City, was the seventh overall selection by the San Diego Padres in that year’s MLB draft and was acquired by Atlanta in a six-player trade on Dec. 19, 2014.
The series is a rematch of the 2020 NLCS, won by the Dodgers in seven games, overcoming a three games to one deficit. This is the fifth time the same two teams have met in consecutive years in the NLCS and first since 2008-09 when the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Dodgers on both occasions.
The NLCS has been played annually since 1969, except in 1994 when baseball’s postseason was canceled by a players’ strike.
There are two key differences between the 2020 and 2021 championship series. All games of the 2020 NLCS were played at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas with no more than 11,119 fans in the stands because of the need for social distancing in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The 2021 NLCS will be played at each team’s home stadium in front of capacity crowds.
Even though the Dodgers had a better regular-season record than the Braves, going 106-56 while Atlanta was 88-73, the Braves will have the home-field advantage in the best-of-seven series because they won their division.
Viewing parties for all road games of the NLCS will be held at Dodger Stadium in the Centerfield Plaza. The parties will include the opportunities to hit and pitch in the batting and pitching cages and the Dodgers Dugout AR Experience.
Viewing Party tickets cost $70 and include a $20 food and beverage credit. Parking is free. Stadium gates will open one hour before game times. More information is available at Dodgers.com/ViewingParty.