Alexander: Big Game Buehler delivers again for Dodgers

first_imgAnd while his collection of postseason starts aren’t all gems, he’s piling up some memorable ones.Game 163 last season technically was not a postseason game, but the stakes were high, and he pitched 6-2/3 shutout innings against the Rockies. His Game 3s against Atlanta in the NLDS and Milwaukee in the NLCS were forgettable, but he had seven strikeouts in 4-2/3 innings of the Dodgers’ Game 7 NLCS victory at Milwaukee. And he pitched seven shutout innings in Game 3 of the World Series, though they were long forgotten in the craziness of the 18-inning victory decided on Max Muncy’s homer.With Thursday’s outing, according to STATS LLC, he is the first National League pitcher to ever have back-to-back postseason starts of six-plus innings with two or fewer hits allowed. He has a 16-2/3-inning scoreless streak in the postseason, dating to the first inning of that NLCS Game 7. He is now 1-1 with a 3.03 ERA in five postseason starts, and 37 strikeouts in 36-1/3 innings.But there’s more to this than numbers.The characteristics that make a guy an ace, that make him a great big-game pitcher? Those were evident in the fourth inning on Thursday night, when Buehler walked the bases loaded (his only walks of the game) with two outs. Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and catcher Will Smith joined him at the mound. LOS ANGELES — Walker Buehler wouldn’t necessarily say he enjoys the big game or the big moment. But he knows how to handle it.For the Dodgers, that’s plenty good enough.The 25-year-old right-hander might still consider himself the ace-in-waiting on a staff that includes Clayton Kershaw. But aces start playoff series. Aces get their teams off to good starts. And Buehler fulfilled all of those characteristics in Thursday night’s 6-0 Dodgers victory over the Washington Nationals in Game 1 of their NL Division Series.He pitched six scoreless innings, hitting the 100-pitch mark exactly. He struck out eight, allowed one hit, walked three but didn’t allow those free passes to do any damage. “He’s confident” in that situation, Smith said. “In his mind, the run is not crossing. And that’s how it should be. That’s why he’s good.”To get there, Buehler threw two curveballs to Asdrubal Cabrera. The first was a swing and miss. The second was a roller to first. End of threat.“Obviously, I have a lot of trust in Honey and Will and what they see,” Buehler said. “There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes that we do that kind of leads to decisions we make. I’m not going to go into the details of it, but we felt good about where that pitch was for me and to him.”His ability to handle the big moment goes back to Vanderbilt, where he pitched for the 2014 College World Series champions and delivered a 5-1/3-inning, seven-strikeout performance against UC Irvine. In fact, it might go back further.“I played against him growing up in high school (in Kentucky) and hit against him in college (for Louisville),” Smith said. “You could tell back then he was a special guy.“I had to face him a few times in high school. No one really threw 90, and he was throwing 95. And it was firm then.”Velocity isn’t the sole indicator.“Walker time and time again just knows how to temper (and) control his emotions and transfer that into the delivery, the execution of pitches,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.“From that first throw, he was on point tonight. 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 (was really good).”Related Articles Dodgers’ Max Muncy trying to work his way out of slow start Fire danger is on Dave Roberts’ mind as Dodgers head to San Francisco Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorcenter_img Dodgers hit seven home runs, sweep Colorado Rockies How Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling topped the baseball podcast empire Cody Bellinger homer gives Dodgers their first walkoff win of season The secret to controlling the big moment, rather than letting it control you? Simplicity.“You try to be simple and do what you’ve done all year and kind of control your heart rate,” he said. “I think sometimes it helps to kind of embrace the atmosphere, and kind of learning to do that has been the biggest thing for me.“ … I think it’s just a compounding effect of playing in games, and there’s certain feelings that you get – nerves, adrenaline, things like that – that you do them enough times (and) they’re just normal. They’re just different, but they’re normal at the same time, they don’t overwhelm you. And I think it’s just that compound effect of being in there a few times, where you know what’s going to happen and you know how to kind of use it.”And there was this: As he walked off the mound after that 100th pitch ended the sixth inning, Sandy Koufax displayed his approval from the field boxes next to the Dodgers dugout.When the Ace – with a capital A – approves, you know you’re doing [email protected]@Jim_Alexander on Twitterlast_img

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