The Dodgers are not tapping perhaps the best pitcher of his generation for Game 1 of the NLDS.
When Washington visits Los Angeles for Game 1 Thursday night, it will not be Clayton Kershaw on the mound. Nor will it be NL ERA leader Hyun-Jin Ryu. No, it will be young Walker Buehler to get the first shot at the Nationals — which sets him up for a potential do-or-die Game 5, too.
“We had already made that decision regardless of the outcome [Tuesday] night,” Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts told reporters, referencing the wild-card game between the Nationals and the Brewers. “All three of those guys are on board with the decision that we made.”
The Dodgers have not yet announced a Game 2 starter, as Kershaw potentially could be pushed even further back in the series.
The Nationals hit lefties better than righties, which might explain the Buehler nod. They slashed .258/.337/.448 against right-handers and .283/.356/.472 against southpaws. Both Kershaw and Ryu are lefties.
Ryu, a Cy Young contender, has had the best season of the trio, finishing with a 2.32 ERA. Kershaw, whose October struggles are well-documented, enters the postseason with seven straight scoreless innings and 3.03 ERA this year. The 25-year-old Buehler, who’s been pedestrian of late, with a 4.50 ERA in his past three outings, carries a 3.26 ERA into the postseaason.
The Nationals will answer with lefty Patrick Corbin after using both Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg in the wild-card game.