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Dodgers vs. Giants NLDS Game 5 probable pitchers, odds, pick: Corey Knebel getting surprise start for Los Angeles as one-inning opener

The Dodgers pulled a surprise this afternoon in naming their Game 5 NLDS starting pitcher.
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It's arguably the biggest Division Series matchup ever tonight when the 109-win Los Angeles Dodgers visit the 109-win San Francisco Giants in the Game 5 National League winner-take-all, with the Atlanta Braves awaiting in the NLCS. The Giants are starting ace Logan Webb, but we all knew that. However, the Dodgers pulled a shocker Thursday afternoon by naming reliever Corey Knebel as their starting pitcher over 20-win Julio Urias. Don't fret, L.A. fans, as Knebel will simply serve as an opener. The game is basically a pick'em at Caesars Sportsbook.

In a way, this makes sense for Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. Urias (20-3, 2.96) is a lefty, so Giants manger Gabe Kapler was surely going to stack his lineup at the top with right-handed hitters – maybe now he won't. Knebel is a righty and right-handers hit .208 off him this year. He should only pitch the one inning with Roberts then going to Urias. While there's logic behind this, it's still a risky strategy in such a big game and if the Giants score a couple off Knebel, Roberts may never live it down. Perhaps the Dodgers go up 4-0 in the top of the first and Roberts changes his mind. 

Overall, Knebel had a 2.45 ERA and 0.97 WHIP with 30 strikeouts in 25 innings in the regular season. He "started" four times, allowing one earned run and six hits over 5.2 innings spanning 22 batters. Knebel pitched one scoreless inning or relief in Game 2 of this series, which the Dodgers won as Urias started and allowed one run over five.

Urias was the Dodgers' first 20-game winner since Clayton Kershaw in 2014 and the first in the NL since Max Scherzer in 2016. Urias'.870 winning percentage was fifth all-time in MLB history. Including the postseason, the Dodgers were 27-6 when Urias started this year. The past two times the Dodgers have clinched a postseason series, it was Urias recording the final out.

The Giants have gone 11-11 against left-handed starters since the All-Star break. Needless to say, any Urias props for tonight (Over/Under strikeouts, etc.) have been taken off the board. SportsLine simulations had the Dodgers winning the game 49 percent of the time with Urias starting and down to 44 percent Knebel as an opener.

As for Webb, the 24-year-old will be the youngest winner-take-all starter in Giants history. The right-hander came out of nowhere this season to finished 11-3 with a 3.03 ERA. From May 11 through the end of the regular season, Webb's 2.40 ERA was second-best in the majors.

Webb didn't personally lose any of his final 20 starts, going 10-0 with a 2.40 ERA. He was 6-0 with a 1.96 ERA at home this year in the regular season and dominated the Dodgers in Game 1 at Oracle Park with 7.2 shutout innings and 10 strikeouts.

It's the third winner-take-all game between the Dodgers and Giants: The two previous were part of a three-game NL tiebreaker series in 1951 and '62. This will be the fifth winner-take-all postseason game between 100-win teams in MLB history and fifth between teams that had the top two records in MLB in the divisional era (since 1969).

This writer is backing the winner-take-all tested Dodgers.

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Matt Severance