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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Alexander: Dodgers’ Walker Buehler aces another big-game moment

LOS ANGELES — This became apparent shortly after Walker Buehler made his way into the Dodgers’ initial rotation in 2018. He may be young, but he’s strong-willed and doesn’t seem intimidated.

“That’s why aces are aces,” manager Dave Roberts said Tuesday afternoon. “They don’t run away from fights.”

They are equally likely to jump.

So on Saturday night, when Buehler informed his manager after the Dodgers won Game 2 of the National League Division Series in San Francisco that he would be available to pitch Game 4 three nights later, it shouldn’t be a surprise. Was.

After a 1-0 thrashing to the Giants in Game 3 on Monday, the choice was clear. The Dodgers had gone through a plot to grope Tony Gonsolin in the interview room before Monday’s game, the implication being that Gonsolin would take down the bulk of the innings in some sort of bullpen game. But later, there were signs that Buehler would be involved, and Albert Pujols let the cat out of the bag when he walked into the postgame interview room and said, “Walker has been throwing the ball well all year long. I think he Going there and we expect the same.”

they have got. Buehler was pitching in the Majors for the first time as a starter on three days’ rest. But he was also pitching in the fourth elimination game of his career, and that muscle memory overtook the short rest and helped the Dodgers extend their season by at least one more game.

The assignment, Roberts said, “is to work as hard as you can.” Buehler, who threw 99 pitches in Friday’s Game 1 in San Francisco, returned Tuesday night with 71 pitches in 4-1/3 innings, conceding a run and three hits and starting the Dodgers toward their final series 7- Expansion of 2 Victory.

If Julio Urius can take the baton from Buehler and lead the Dodgers to Oracle Park on Thursday night when he faces the Giants Logan Webb, at least let’s hope Buehler’s effort will be remembered with that importance. to which he is entitled.

It was an ace that used to do aces. The Dodgers have asked Clayton Kershaw several times over the years to pitch on short rest periods and kick out a troubled or short-handed pitching rotation.

Buehler handled it like a charm, believing the fact that he was doing it for the first time. 42 of his 71 pitches were strikes. He threw a four-seamer most of the time (34 pitches), but made most of his swing and misses on his sliders (three of 13) and changeups (two of 13), as well as four called strikes on change.

“Honestly, I’d like to say he had better stuff than the other night,” Roberts later said, jokingly suggesting that perhaps the solution is “to visit him more often.

“He just seemed at ease,” he said. “Sometimes, when you’re a little too tired and not too agitated or too strong, you try not to do too much. All night long he’s been into his delivery. Stuff, velocity, his secondary The pitch’s characteristics were really good. He used variations when needed, and I thought it was really cool all night.”

Catcher Will Smith said Buehler’s velocity was actually well above his previous starts—he averaged 96.1 on the four-seam and 95.7 on the sinker—but the change has become a true weapon.

Read Also:  Dodgers’ Max Scherzer on facing SF Giants: ‘It’s personal to them, it’s personal to us’

“Yeah, over the course of the year it just evolved and got better and better,” Smith said. “He can throw it to strike if needed. He can put it down, chase something on him. And, yeah, he seemed to be having a good time tonight so we leaned on him a little more and he was getting on with it. ”

As a rookie in 2018, Buehler pitched and won Game 163 against Colorado for the NL West title, and started Game 7 of the NL Championship Series in Milwaukee (one run in 4-2/3 innings). the permission). In 2019 he made his Game 5 debut against Washington in the Division Series (one run, four hits and seven strikes in 6-2/3 innings, only to ruin the bullpen). And last year, when the Dodgers came back from a 3-1 deficit in the NLCS against Atlanta, Buehler pitched Game 5 and played six shutout innings with six strikeouts.

Obviously, this moment is not a big one for him.

“With an elimination game and a bit of being here, I wanted the ball,” he said. “And I love what I did. I wish I could go a little deeper, but… we have the talent and the people behind the bullpen to cover it.

“To be completely honest, there was probably nothing that was going on, I’d tell him I didn’t want the ball, so by the time I could walk into the clubhouse, I thought I was going to sound off.” ups and downs.”

When he decided to volunteer for Game 4, he recalled, he didn’t talk to anyone about it before asking, “And then I asked everyone to make sure I wasn’t being stupid. talked to.

“Luckily we have players in that room, (Max) Scherzer, Kersch, people who have been asked and done, that I was able to[say]’Hey, am I doing something wrong? Should I do something different?’ … it’s not something we want to do all the time, but I thought if things didn’t go our way (Monday), I would feel really weird that we wouldn’t play a game that we could lose a series.

“I’m so glad it worked and was lucky in many ways. Our offense took great care of it. The bullpen took great care of it. But it’s one more thing in terms of trying to be a baseball player that I am and I want (to be) and I’m glad it worked out for us.”

This has probably been an ongoing process rather than one big conversation. It is not uncommon to see Buehler, Kershaw and Schaezer in conversation on the dugout railing during games when they are not pitching, pitching and sharing knowledge. Any questions Buehler specifically asked about this position may have been the basis in all those mid-game conversations.

Buehler spoke about drawing on the experience of Kershaw and then-teammate Rich Hill as a rookie. But even so, Roberts relied on him in the big games. And while Dodgers need to be wary of use on short rests—and ideally wouldn’t need to rely on it often in those situations—they know they can depend on it.

After all he is an ace. And that’s what aces do.

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@Jim_Alexander on Twitter

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