Dodgers on brink after another pitching plan goes awry

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The Los Angeles Dodgers asked the world of Julio Urías when he conquered the hill for the fourth time in 12 days.
Although Urías was the only 20-game baseball winner that season, Los Angeles had used him in three roles in the past week alone. Urias and the Dodgers claimed it was nothing he couldn't handle, but the left-handed was out of rhythm and away from his normal preparation between starts when he faced the Atlanta Braves in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.
When Urías left Dodger Stadium five runs behind on Wednesday night, it seemed clear that Los Angeles in its tumultuous rotation was asking too much - or not getting enough.
The Los Angeles Front Office disregards most traditional norms in an October attempt to get the most out of its pitching staff - but with the Dodgers close to being eliminated, it's clear those decisions didn't work out the way Dodgers did - Chief Andrew Friedman hoped it would.
Both Urías and Max Scherzer struggled in the NLCS when asked to start with just a two-day break after a relief. Walker Buehler also did not meet his usual standard of pitching with an additional break.
And now the Dodgers have their last chance to get those decisions right against the Braves, who are 3-1 ahead against LA for the second year in a row and have three options to dethrone the World Series defending champions. The Dodgers are eliminated for the fourth time in Game 5 of these playoffs.
Urías gave up three solo homers in two early innings - all on four-seam fastballs in the lower 90s - before being marked for two more runs in the fifth. With his fastball speed slightly different from his usual position, he made eight hits and hit only three.
Whether it's the Dodgers 'unusual strategy, the poor performance of the pitchers, or the excellence of the Braves, one thing is clear: The Dodgers' top three starters have not achieved their normal standards.
Three days after finishing the NL Division Series in San Francisco, Scherzer couldn't leave the fifth inning of Game 2 in Atlanta in his shortest playoff start since 2011. Two days later, Buehler held just 3 2/3 innings and left behind in the come-from-behind win in Game 3 in Los Angeles.
By the time Game 3 was over, the Dodgers had made 28 pitching changes in their last four games. With a bullpen game planned for Game 5, Los Angeles was in dire need of a big start with a brief hiatus from Urías in Game 4.
Instead, the Braves hit him hard, putting the Dodgers off the ropes for the second straight season.
In truth, the Dodgers' rotation has been a blended group year-round that belies their 106-win success. Clayton Kershaw, Dustin May and Trevor Bauer were key components of the rotation early in the season, but Los Angeles somehow still went into the postseason with the highest quality starts in the NL.
Urías hadn't allowed three homers in a game since his second major league appearance in 2016, but Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall and Freddie Freeman were all connected.
Urias's success in postseason relief is already part of Dodgers lore: he came to the rescue with 2 1/3 goalless innings of relief against Tampa Bay in the 6th game of the World Series in LA's masterful victory last season .
But the Dodgers stretched Urias even further in his last three appearances: he was a bulk reliever with four innings in Game 5 of the NL Division Series, and then he came in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the NLCS, giving Atlanta's tie on rally with two Running on a day when he normally does his side work.
The Dodgers 'controversial pitching strategies wouldn't carry nearly as much weight if their high-priced lineup had been able to meet the Braves' emergency helpers while Atlanta threw a bullpen game on Wednesday. Instead, LA couldn't get a hit until the fifth inning and ended Game 4 with just four hits.
And the Dodgers are still doubling up: Tony Gonsolin came in the eighth inning of game 4, cutting down normal starter availability on Thursday night when Los Angeles is knocked out with a bullpen game - though that might be a good thing when you consider that Gonsolin has given up four runs in the ninth.
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