The Dodgers have announced that Walker Buehler will get the start in tonight’s crucial Game 6 of the National League Championship Series. Buehler will take the ball in place of Max Scherzer, who was initially slated to start but was scratched yesterday.
Buehler didn’t look sharp in Game 3 against the Braves, allowing two earned runs (and four runs total) on six hits and three walks over 3 2/3 innings. He’ll now take the ball again on only three days’ rest, working on short rest for just the second time in his career, and the second time this postseason. Los Angeles deployed Buehler for both Games 1 and 4 of the NLDS, and also on three days’ rest, Buehler held the Giants to one earned run over 4 1/3 innings of work.
Since this is the only instance of Buehler pitching on short rest, it is hard to say whether or not his shaky performance in Game 3 (which came a week after Game 4 of the NLDS) was due to after-effects from having only three days to recover and prepare between starts. Surely the Dodgers would have felt much more comfortable having Buehler fully rested for a potential Game 7, though given how the Dodgers have more or less used an “all hands on deck” philosophy with their postseason pitching mix, it wouldn’t have been shocking if Buehler had been used to record some key outs in relief of Scherzer in Game 6.
That possible scenario didn’t come to pass, however, as Scherzer continues to be bothered by the “dead arm” that plagued him in his Game 2 start against the Braves. Scherzer was pitching for the third time in six days in that outing, after he had thrown 110 pitches in Game 3 of the NLDS against the Giants, then came into Game 5 as a closer to seal the series with a scoreless ninth inning. Returning to the mound three days later against Atlanta, Scherzer threw 79 pitches in 4 1/3 innings, giving up two runs on a walk and four hits (though with seven strikeouts).
In the big picture, Buehler is type of ace a team would love to have on the mound for a possible elimination game, except for the X-factor of how the short rest could impact his work. It remains to be seen exactly how long of a leash Buehler will receive from manager Dave Roberts, as while Buehler is an ace, the Dodgers don’t have any margin for error being down 3-2 in the series. Pulling Buehler after, for example, another 3 2/3 innings will leave a lot of outs for the Dodgers bullpen to cover, especially since Joe Kelly has already been removed from the NLCS roster due to injury, and Justin Bruihl’s availability may also be in question due to arm soreness.
Using Buehler tonight also raises the question of how the Dodgers will handle the pitching in a potential Game 7, though obviously L.A. just wants to win tonight before worrying about tomorrow’s issues. Julio Urias (Game 4’s starter after pitching in relief in Game 2) would also be working on short rest if he pitched in Game 7, though since the Dodgers have already had two bullpen games in this series, normal starter/reliever roles would quite likely be thrown out the window in a Game 7 scenario. It also isn’t known if Scherzer will be available for any action at all, even a one-inning appearance.