Julio Urías as a starter in Game 1 of the SDLN for the Dodgers; Clayton Kershaw in Game 2

LOS ANGELES — Dodgers manager Dave Roberts announced Monday that Julio Urías will start Game 1 of the NL Division Series against the Padres on Tuesday. Clayton Kershaw will then go to Game 2 on Wednesday.

In four starts against the Padres this season, Urías went 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 24 innings. The left-hander has made five postseason starts for the Dodgers since 2016 and has a 3.52 playoff ERA.

“I think for us you could essentially flip a coin,” Roberts said. “Both are aces in our eyes. I think Julio has been fantastic for us all year. Just making that decision to give him that opportunity, we all feel good about it.”

Before officially announcing their pitching plans Monday, the Dodgers had contemplated starting Kershaw in Game 1 despite Urias’ stellar regular season. Kershaw was also solid against the Padres in 2022, going 1-0 with a 0.75 ERA in two starts.

But the decision wasn’t based on success against San Diego; instead, he focused on which pitcher the Dodgers would want on the mound on full rest in a possible Game 5. They ultimately landed on Urías.

If the Dodgers had gone with Kershaw in Game 1, the likely future Hall of Famer would have been fully rested for a Game 5 if needed. That’s significant because the Dodgers have been cautious with Kershaw’s workload this season as he has missed time with back injuries.

Given Urías’ ability to get out of the bullpen, which he has done in back-to-back postseasons, the Dodgers were initially intrigued about the possibility of using a similar strategy. Urías would have been available on a short break, though that would have burned him out for several games if they advanced to the NLCS.

With their current pick, the Dodgers have their ace available for two of the five games and have Kershaw available for a potential NLCS Game 1.

“Hopefully we can get through the series,” Roberts said. “So Clayton will be even more prominent in the next series. That’s how he works.”

Urías has the honor of starting the Dodgers’ first postseason game for the first time in his career. After all, when Walker Buehler and Kershaw suffered injuries earlier this season, the Dodgers desperately needed a pitcher to establish themselves as the team’s ace.

All-Stars Tyler Anderson and Tony Gonsolin were having great seasons, but it was Urias who took their game to a different level.

Urias, the only 20-game winner in 2021, had one of the best stretches of his career in the second half of the regular season, going 9-1 with a 1.26 ERA in 13 starts since the All-Star break. Urias allowed two runs or fewer in all those starts. He used that dominant streak to finish the 2022 season with a 2.16 ERA, becoming the first Mexican-born pitcher to win the NL ERA title.

“I’ve never been excited to get in the box against Julio,” Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “I think everyone felt the same way I felt this year against him.”

Since signing with the Dodgers in 2016, Urías has had high expectations. He rose through the Minors, quickly becoming a top prospect. Since he is a Mexican southpaw, the easy, and probably unfair, comparison was Fernando Valenzuela.

However, every step of the way, Urías has risen to every challenge. He was the one who called for the ball in relief during the ’20 postseason, recording the final out in the NLCS and World Series. Last October, he was open to pitching behind a starter in Game 5 against the Giants in the NLDS and in relief in Game 2 of the NLCS against the Braves.

There will be no mystery in this postseason. Urías will be the ace of the Dodgers and will set the course for a 111-win team that seeks to add the 11 most important wins of the season.

“That’s the beauty of this,” Urías said in Spanish. “You go through good things, some bad things, but at the end of the day, they were all opportunities to prepare for this moment. It’s a really nice feeling and making the most of it would be great.”

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