Comfortable with each of their three options, the Los Angeles Dodgers named Walker Buehler their starter for Game 1 of the 2019 National League Division Series. It marks a second consecutive year Clayton Kershaw is not starting the Dodgers’ playoff opener after he did so from 2013-17.
“Obviously it’s an honor and all those things,” said Buehler, before downplaying the significance. “Around here, I don’t know if one, two or three really matters. It’s more about pitching for this team in the playoffs.
“I think the order is a little less significant than people make it out to be. I’m just excited to pitch.”
Buehler, Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu each had splits that favored pitching at Dodger Stadium than on the road this season. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said the club took that into consideration but it was not a defining roster.
Nor was the outcome of the Wild Card Game between the Milwaukee Brewers and Washington Nationals. Instead, the Dodgers focused on putting themselves in the best possible position to reach the NL Championship Series a fourth consecutive year.
“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,” Roberts explained.
Buehler’s brief experience thus far in the postseason has produced mixed results but above all else has learned through it.
“I think for me the biggest take away is if you get into that spot where it’s not going so well, I think saving bullpen, eating innings, and things like that is super important,” he said.
“So I think for me it’s just trying to get deep into games and put up zeros is still the biggest thing.”
If there is one constant with Buehler, it’s his comfortability with constantly adjusting his mechanics. The 25-year-old adjusted his delivery in his final start of the regular season and seemed to suggest he remains in the process of finding what feels best.
“I’m nowhere different than I am all year,” Buehler said. “I tinker all the time and maybe it is my nervous tick and that’s what gets me going. But I think what I’m doing now and the tinkering is a little bit overblown, I’m just working on things like I have my whole career.”