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Buehler named Game 1 starter for Dodgers

@mattkellyMLB and @kengurnick
October 2, 2019

The Dodgers on Wednesday tabbed right-hander Walker Buehler to start Game 1 of their National League Division Series matchup against the Nationals (Thursday, 8:37 p.m. ET, TBS). Los Angeles waited as long as possible to reveal its rotation, but ultimately opted with Buehler in the opener. Longtime ace Clayton Kershaw

The Dodgers on Wednesday tabbed right-hander Walker Buehler to start Game 1 of their National League Division Series matchup against the Nationals (Thursday, 8:37 p.m. ET, TBS).

Los Angeles waited as long as possible to reveal its rotation, but ultimately opted with Buehler in the opener. Longtime ace Clayton Kershaw will likely start Game 2 so that he will be fully rested to either start or come out of the bullpen should the series go to a decisive Game 5. He got practice coming out of the bullpen in Sunday’s regular-season finale in San Francisco. NL Cy Young Award candidate Hyun-Jin Ryu is the Dodgers’ likely Game 3 starter in Washington. Los Angeles already announced lefty Rich Hill as its starter for a potential Game 4 (if necessary).

Game Date Result Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 3 LAD 6, WSH 0 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 4 WSH 4, LAD 2 Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 6 LAD 10, WSH 4 Watch
Gm 4 Oct. 7 WSH 6, LAD 1 Watch
Gm 5 Oct. 9 WSH 7, LAD 3 Watch

The Dodgers’ decision likely came down to Buehler or Ryu for Game 1. Buehler endured a tough start on the road in Atlanta during last year’s NLDS, and that may have swayed Los Angeles to give him the ball at home. Ryu also had better splits at home this season, though his 2.72 ERA on the road was excellent.

"I think, obviously, all three of our guys deserve the opportunity to pitch the first game of this, in the Division Series," manager Dave Roberts said Wednesday. "We just felt that with Walker getting an opportunity to pitch the first game, also potentially a Game 5 gives us the best chance to win, regardless of the opponent."

Buehler tinkered with his mechanics during his final tuneup on Friday in San Francisco, where he allowed two runs with four walks in five innings. But he could pick up some down-ballot NL Cy Young votes this year after finishing 14-4 with a 3.26 ERA and 215/37 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The third-year star finished strong down the stretch, posting a 2.99 second-half ERA while holding hitters to a .219 average. Buehler logged two starts against the Nationals this season, losing one start and taking a no-decision in the other while allowing seven runs (four earned) across 12 1/3 innings.

Buehler was absolutely brilliant the last time he was on a mound in October, twirling seven scoreless innings on two hits and no walks while striking out seven Red Sox in Game 3 of the 2018 World Series, a contest that wound up going 18 innings.

"I think for me the biggest takeaway is if you get into that spot where it's not going so well, I think that saving [the] bullpen, eating innings, and things like that is super important, especially when we have got limited rosters and a lot of games to play," Buehler said of pitching in the postseason. "So I think for me it's just trying to get deep into games and put up zeros is still the biggest thing."

Turner "just a leader"

Justin Turner’s importance to the Dodgers shouldn’t be underestimated. Just ask MVP candidate Cody Bellinger.

“He's been just a leader, on and off the field,” said Cody Bellinger. “I think everyone has their leader on their team, but he's been a guy that's every single day playing as hard as he can whether he feels good or not. Literally doing whatever he can to help the team win that day. I think we all watch that and learn from that.”

Turner, limited to three starts over the final three weeks by ankle and back injuries, took grounders and batting practice during the club’s workout at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday.

Belli focused on games, not awards

Bellinger has said hearing the chants of "M-V-P,' while cool, has been something he’s tried to tune out. Until last weekend.

“The last series in San Francisco actually I kind of soaked it in, I was like I'm just going to do what I can to end this year strong and keep my name in the conversation,” Bellinger said. “And now it's out of my hands, so I'm not going to worry about that right now and put all my focus in on these next games that we got to play.”

Roster prognostication

While Roberts wouldn’t reveal the games that Kershaw and Ryu would start, he basically laid out the Game 1 starting lineup against Washington left-hander Patrick Corbin (batting order is a projection): David Freese, 1B; Turner, 3B; A.J. Pollock, LF; Bellinger, CF; Max Muncy, 2B; Corey Seager, SS; Chris Taylor, RF; Will Smith, C; Buehler, P

On Wednesday, relievers Yimi García, Dylan Floro and Caleb Ferguson threw bullpen sessions. On Tuesday, Tony Gonsolin pitched two innings of a simulated game. Although there was no announcement of a roster for the series, chances are all of those pitchers won’t be on it.

That means the 12-man staff will be Buehler, Kershaw, Ryu, Hill, Kenley Jansen, Kenta Maeda, Joe Kelly, Pedro Báez, Adam Kolarek, Julio Urías, Ross Stripling and Dustin May.

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.