Management thinks enough of Walker Buehler’s big-game ability that he’ll probably be the Game 1 starter in as many series as the Dodgers play this postseason, beginning with the Wild Card Series opener Wednesday night against the Brewers.
Even though Buehler spent most of September nursing a right index finger blister -- “It’s fine,” he said on Tuesday – he will take the ball instead of future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw, who starts Game 2.
Buehler earned such confidence from his Game 163 performance (6 2/3 scoreless innings) to clinch the division in 2018.
“I’ve been very lucky to be in some big spots before I got to pro ball,” he said, referring to the College World Series with Vanderbilt. “I got a few tester runs. 163, I think, was a big point for me. Failing at Atlanta [five runs in five innings in a National League Division Series Game 3 loss in 2018], I think was big for me. It’s not like I’ve done this for 10 years, but I feel pretty comfortable with what I’ve done in the playoffs previously. Just want to keep that going.”
Buehler said he’s learned more from the bad games than the good ones.
“Out of success I think you can become more confident, or the nerves kind of take a step back because you’ve done it before,” he said. “But when you fail, you have to kind of reassess, and that confidence is built from the ground up. I just got lucky in ’18 to be on a team with the guys we had. We lost the game in Atlanta, Rich Hill dominated the next night -- no harm, no foul.
“The next round, I threw bad against Milwaukee [four runs in seven innings of a 4-0 NL Championship Series Game 3 loss]. We stayed in it and I got another chance at it [one run in 4 2/3 innings of a 5-1 Game 7 win]. I’ve been kind of lucky to be on teams that when I fail, it hasn’t cost us.”
Teammates seem to have as much confidence in Buehler as he has in himself.
“I think it’s pretty clear and evident there’s no lack of confidence in Walker Buehler’s game,” said Justin Turner. “The past couple of years, when we needed a big start out of him -- Game 163 or a playoff game -- he answers the bell. Excited to have him out there tomorrow.”
Around the horn
• Turner said he feels “great,” having returned from a left hamstring strain that sidelined him for nearly three weeks.
• Manager Dave Roberts said Tony Gonsolin had a bullpen session planned for Tuesday, which effectively lines him up to be the starter or bulk-innings long reliever after an opener for Game 3, if needed.
• Roberts also said speedster Terrance Gore would likely be added to the roster for the Wild Card Series. Gore, who had been outrighted, would require a corresponding 40-man roster move. Gore and Matt Beaty were included in Tuesday’s workout at Dodger Stadium.
With a three-game series and an expanded 28-man roster, the Dodgers don’t need the 15 pitchers they carried through the end of the regular season.
• Mark Ripperger, Quinn Wolcott and Jim Reynolds will be the plate umpires in Games 1, 2 and 3 (if necessary). The Dodgers were 3-2 with Ripperger behind the plate this year, 2-1 with Wolcott and 2-1 with Reynolds. Ripperger also was the umpire that ejected Max Muncy, Dave Roberts and Robert Van Scoyoc in an Aug. 19 loss in Seattle. Ripperger did not umpire any of Buehler’s starts, but Wolcott was behind the plate in Kershaw’s Sept. 19 win.