Five things to know about Dodgers Game 5 starter Corey Knebel

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LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 28: Pitcher Corey Knebel #46 of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws a pitch.
Veteran right-hander Corey Knebel will start for the Dodgers in Game 5 of the National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants. (Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images)

Corey Knebel will be the Dodgers’ Game 5 starter Thursday night.

Just like everyone expected — not.

The veteran right-hander, of course, likely won’t pitch very long in the winner-take-all showdown against the San Francisco Giants, expected to serve only as an opener ahead of left-hander Julio Urías, who was originally announced as the Dodgers' starter for the deciding game of the National League Division Series.

The 29-year-old will have the chance to set the tone in their biggest game of the season.

Before he takes the mound, here are five things to know about Knebel.

He had a bounce-back 2021 season

Acquired in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers last winter, Knebel bounced back from a poor 2020 season by posting a 2.45 ERA in 27 outings this year.

He missed more than three months in the middle of the campaign with a strained back, then returned in early August to finish the year strong, giving up just four earned runs and striking out 21 batters over his final 19 appearances.

He’s been an opener before

In four of his outings this year, Knebel served as an opener, pitching between one and two innings at the start of games.

He only gave up a run in one of those situations, posting a 1.59 ERA in the four appearances.

One of those starts was against the Giants, a Sept. 3 game at Oracle Park in which he tossed two scoreless innings, giving up two hits while striking out two batters.

Dodgers reliever Corey Knebel delivers the final pitch of the game as he saves a 1-0 win over the Nationals on April 9.
Dodgers reliever Corey Knebel delivers the final pitch of the game as he saves a 1-0 win over the Nationals on April 9. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

He has reverse splits

While hitters on both sides of the plate struggled against Knebel this year, he was actually slightly more successful against left-handed batters.

Lefty-handed batters faced him in 49 plate appearances, hitting .140 with two extra-base hits and a .477 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.

Right-handed batters faced him in 52 plate appearances, hitting .208 with three extra-base hits and a .563 OPS.

Knebel's career splits are similar as well, with right-handers batting 50 points higher against him than lefties.

He was once one of baseball’s best relievers

A former first-round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers, Knebel became one of the best relievers in baseball with the Brewers in 2017. That season, he recorded 39 saves, posted a 1.78 ERA and was selected to his first and only All-Star game.

He regressed in 2018, however, posting a 3.58 ERA. Then he missed all of 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

In last year’s shortened campaign, Knebel gave up nine runs in only 13 1/3 innings. The Brewers weren’t planning to re-sign him before the Dodgers traded for him and ultimately signed him to a one-year, $5.25-million deal.

He will be a free agent this winter.

He has had postseason success

While Knebel struggled at times with the Brewers in 2018, he regained his form in that year’s postseason.

That October, he gave up only one run in 10 innings and appeared in six of the Brewers’ seven games against the Dodgers in the NLCS — including a successful save in Game 1.

So far, he’s performed well in these playoffs. In the wild-card game, he struck out the one batter he faced after inheriting a one-on, two-out spot in the eighth inning.

In Game 2 against the Giants on Saturday, he pitched a scoreless seventh inning, striking out two batters.

Overall, he has a 0.79 ERA in 11 career playoff appearances.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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