2019 NLDS: Dodgers Name Walker Buehler Game 1 Starter

For nearly a decade the Los Angeles Dodgers pitching staff has been led by Clayton Kershaw, and it became a foregone conclusion he would start the team’s first playoff game year in and year out.

That changed last October when the Dodgers instead opted to have Hyun-Jin Ryu take the mound against the Atlanta Braves in Game 1 of the National League Division Series. It marked the first time since 2009 that Kershaw did not start the Dodgers’ first game of the postseason.

Now the Dodgers are set to embark on another playoff run with a pitcher other than Kershaw taking the mound in the opener as the club named Walker Buehler their Game 1 starter. The Washington Nationals had previously announced Patrick Corbin would take the ball Thursday.

Buehler went 0-1 with a 2.92 ERA in two starts against the Nationals this season. The better of his two outings came at home, where the right-hander collected seven strikeouts over seven shutout innings.

As the Dodgers were closing out the regular season, their rotation was aligned so that Kershaw would pitch Game 1, with Ryu taking the ball in Game 2 and Buehler receiving a road start in the third game of the NLDS.

However, off days in the schedule provide some flexibility, and manager Dave Roberts said the club was not fully committed to that order.

“If you look at our three guys, they’re very interchangeable,” he said late last month. “We can still kind of pivot as far as aligning them. I don’t think we can make a bad decision. The way that they feel right now, I think we’re in a great spot.”

Each of the three starters fared much better at Dodger Stadium than on the road this season, though Kershaw’s splits and track record are the least drastic. While the Dodgers were mindful of that, they took a broader scope.

“Each one of those guys pitches better at home, so that sort of weighed in but I don’t think that’s the ultimate decision-maker. Yeah, the splits matter but I think we’re digging a little bit deeper than just the home and road (statistics),” Roberts explained.

The Dodgers have not announced who will follow Buehler in the series. Rich Hill was already named the starter for a potential Game 4 against the Nationals.