Los Angeles Dodgers starter Walker Buehler threw six shutout innings Thursday night, limiting the Nationals to one hit in a 6-0 win.
Thursday night’s NLDS Game 1 in Los Angeles featured two great starters in Patrick Corbin for the Nationals and Walker Buehler for the Dodgers. And while Corbin only allowed one earned run via a walk with the bases load in the first inning, the night belonged to Buehler.
The Dodgers starter struck out eight batters and allowed just one hit in his six innings work, supporting Dave Roberts’ decision to start the 25-year-old over proven veterans like Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Dating back to last postseason, Buehler has gone 16 consecutive innings without allowing a run in the playoffs.
After the game, Justin Turner told Ken Gurnick from MLB.com that Buehler is a confident guy, implying nobody in the Dodger clubhouse was surprised to see the young righty dominant Thursday night.
“If you know Walker, it’s not surprising. He’s very, very, very, very, very confident in himself. He loves it. He thrives on these situations.”
But unlike the Nationals Wild Card game with the Brewers, the hits didn’t start coming once Buehler exited the game in the sixth inning. Washington only mustered two hits and left four runners on base Thursday night, being sent down on strikes 13 times.
One the season only the Mets and Reds struck out more NL batters than the Dodgers this season, making a patient Nationals team look comfortable in the batter’s box all game. But it’s hard to see another team beating the Dodgers when their pitching is on like they were in Game 1, showing why the group won a franchise-high 107 wins this season.
The Nationals bullpen wasn’t great either, allowing the Dodgers to tack on two more insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth inning. Washington’s relief pitching has been an issue all year, leaning heavily on their starters to go deep into games to avoid their bullpen with the second-worst ERA in the league at 5.68. But in the postseason, it’s hard to rely on starters to constantly give their teams six or seven innings of work.
And when the Dodgers rotation is pumping out quality starts like the one Buehler produced, it only puts more pressure on the Nationals starter to perform. Washington will send Stephen Strasburg to start Friday’s game, but after throwing three innings in the Wild Card game, so a long outing from Strasburg shouldn’t be expected.
The bullpen will have to play a crucial role for the Nationals once again, and with Kershaw on the mound, scoring chances are going to be limited. Los Angeles has too much pitching for a team like Washington that has so many inexperienced players in key roles, this could be a quick series.