One year ago the Los Angeles Dodgers had aligned Walker Buehler to take the ball against the Colorado Rockies in Game 163 to determine the National League West. A loss, and the Dodgers would need to fight for their postseason lives in the Wild Card Game.
Like most expected to be the case, Buehler rose to the occasion to help the Dodges clinch a sixth consecutive NL West title. While the circumstances were drastically different this season, he again was on the mound when the Dodgers officially wrapped up the division.
While Buehler overpowered the Baltimore Orioles that night, he’s fallen victim to inconsistent performances in three ensuing starts. The latest of which came Friday against the San Francisco Giants.
Buehler went into the outing having adjusted his mechanics as he works to recapture his dominant form, via Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
“I’m kind of tinkering with some stuff and trying to figure some little things out,” he said. “Been a little inconsistent and kind of found a little something there. Trying to speed up and put myself in a position to be a little more athletic. For now it’s going to be a little inconsistent and that’s fine, that’s why we work the way we do.
“I feel like I threw some really good pitches and some really bad pitches and just trying to find some consistency. The past two starts I wasn’t super happy about and I’m going to look at some stuff and figure out a plan to find a different feel. I’m a one-feel guy, try to find a feel for every delivery and if that one feel is not working, I’ll try a different one.”
After facing the the Rockies one week ago, Buehler said a focus was on getting into correct ‘lanes’ that would allow him to pitch more fluidly.
Most notably, Buehler adjusted his windup so that his hands remain in front of his body rather than go over his head. The change was in effort to allow Buehler’s arm and lower body to be in sync through the delivery.
On the one hand, he had eight strikeouts and limited the Giants to just two runs. However, Buehler also issued a season high four walks and threw 104 pitches in just five innings of work.
Next for the young right-hander is a start in the NL Division Series. However, whether that comes in Game 1, 2 or 3 remains undecided. Buehler, Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu have each fared much better at Dodger Stadium than in road starts this season.
Furthermore, the Game 3 starter runs the risk of only pitching once in the NLDS should it go the distance.