Los Angeles Dodgers’ starter Walker Buehler gave up a total of eight hits, three walks, and seven runs, four earned, in 5 1⁄3 IP against the Washington Nationals in the nation’s capital back in late July, but when he started against the Nats in LA in May, the 25-year-old right-hander tossed seven scoreless innings, giving up four hits and a walk but no runs in what ended up being a 5-2 loss in which he received no decision.
Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez was asked before the start of the NLDS in Chavez Ravine if he was surprised to see Dodgers’ skipper Dave Roberts turn to Buehler for the first game of the best-of-five series, over options like Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu.
“No,” he said. “I mean after what I’ve seen from Buehler, man, he’s got really good stuff. So all night last night I was tossing about what they were going to try to do and it doesn’t surprise me that Buehler is going to pitch Game 1. He’s been a guy this year for them, he’s been really good. We got a tough battle ahead of us, but I know that our boys are up to it.”
Walker Buehler, 97mph Fastball (foul) and 83mph Knuckle Curve (swinging K), Overlay. pic.twitter.com/UELOJMzOH2— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 4, 2019
Buehler tossed six scoreless against the Nationals last night, in Game 1 of the NLDS, giving up three walks overall but just one hit in a 100-pitch outing in which he struck out eight of the 21 hitters he faced.
Buehler generated 18 swinging strikes, nine with his fastball, and got 17 called strikes overall on the night, 10 with the fastball, which sat at 97.4 MPH average and got up to 99, with eight Ks total, and the Dodgers’ bullpen combined for 13 strikeouts total from the 30 Nats’ batters who stepped to the plate.
Combined with the fact that Nationals’ starter Patrick Corbin walked five, four in the bottom of the first, forcing in a run with a bases loaded walk, before a two-out free pass in the fifth came around to score as well, in a 6-0 loss, the Nats had a rough night in the series opener in Dodger Stadium.
“We didn’t play very well today,” Martinez said after the game.
“Walked a lot of guys, chased a lot of bad pitches. I think at one point, I’ve got to look, but we were way over 20 pitches that we chased and that’s uncharacteristic of our team.
“Usually we don’t chase. We make guys throw the ball in the zone. Today we chased a lot.
“Couldn’t get nothing going offensively,” he added.
“When you have those two combinations, when you’re walking guys and not hitting, it’s tough to win ball games.”
Walker Buehler, Wicked 84mph Slider (release/spin axis). pic.twitter.com/fFLH2rLUaP— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 4, 2019
Their struggles offensively, until late in the Wild Card Game and throughout Game 1 of the NLDS, Martinez said, were also a result of some good pitching on the other side.
“I think that, honestly I think we’re facing some really good pitchers, one. Two, is just we got to get the ball in the strike zone. For me that’s the key. When we swing at balls in the strike zone we put the ball in play. That’s what we have done all year. So we just got to relax and come back tomorrow and just get the ball in the zone.”
“Same thing as always,” Trea Turner said in discussing what Buehler was able to do, after going 1 for 4 with a K at the plate in the series opener.
“Just the velocity with four pitches in any count. A lot of 3-1, 3-2 off speed pitches and when you’re throwing upper 90s it’s pretty tough to account for everything. He was good tonight.”
“We made him throw 75-80 pitches in four innings,” Turner added, “... so I felt like we were doing a good job making him work, getting runners on base, just couldn’t get those runs across. I don’t think we did a terrible job, I just thought he did a good job of pitching out of the trouble.”
“From that first throw he was on point tonight,” Dodgers’ skipper Dave Roberts said of his starter.
“And the delivery, the tempo, all consistent. Fastball command to all quadrants. The slower breaking ball, I loved with the depth. The cutter, when he needed it. So that’s a really good lineup over there and for him to go six it was really -- we needed that one.”
Now the Nationals need one, and they need a strong start from Stephen Strasburg in Game 2, though it’s not going to get any easier for the offense, with Clayton Kershaw going for the Dodgers.
“It’s the postseason, you’re not going to get anybody easy,” Turner said, “so it’s going to be another battle just like tonight, and hopefully we can put up some runs early and get in that bullpen.”