SAN FRANCISCO -- The Dodgers handled Walker Buehler with kid gloves last year and throttled him back this April, conserving the workload on his treasured arm for moments like Monday, when they hand him the ball to pitch for the National League West title.Buehler will start Game 163 against German
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Dodgers handled Walker Buehler with kid gloves last year and throttled him back this April, conserving the workload on his treasured arm for moments like Monday, when they hand him the ball to pitch for the National League West title.
Buehler will start Game 163 against German Marquez and the Rockies at Dodger Stadium at 1 p.m. PT on ESPN for a lot of reasons, but mostly because management wants no part of a Wild Card Game and believes going all-in with the rookie right-hander provides the best chance for a sixth consecutive division title.
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"It's a game where, it's not do or die, but it's a must-win game," manager Dave Roberts said after the Dodgers beat the Giants on Sunday, 15-0. "To get a few days off and host a Division Series, it's very important. To win this game and the division, it's in our hands at home.
"Our goal is to win the division. With Walker rested an extra day, right now he's our best. There are guys that want to be in this spot in this moment and guys that want to run from it. I think Walker's a guy we know wants to be in this moment."
Buehler, a former first-round pick who has battled back from Tommy John surgery, tried to compare the pressure he'll be facing on Monday.
"Weird as this sounds, it feels like a [NCAA] regional game," the former Vanderbilt star said of the College World Series tournament.
The Dodgers could have let Buehler make his scheduled start on Sunday and use Rich Hill, who dominated on Sunday, against the Rockies. They could have gone with a bullpen game on Monday and held back Buehler for the Wild Card Game. Roberts said the club is confident in its decision.
Roberts said Buehler convinced the club of his toughness and maturation when he continued to pitch despite sustaining rib fractures from a line drive by Rockies shortstop Trevor Story on May 21. He did it again when he pitched through a leg bruise sustained in a collision with first baseman Player Page for Max Muncy, and again when he threw eight scoreless innings in St. Louis on Sept. 14.
"There's been a lot of markers for Walker this year," Roberts said.
Chris Taylor said a Game 163 is fitting, considering the back-and-forth narrative of the division race this season.
"It sums up the way the division has been all year," he said. "But we're playing our best ball going into the most important time of the season."
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.