The Los Angeles Dodgers will turn to Walker Buehler Saturday in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, hoping he can extend their season despite pitching with one day’s less rest than is customary.
Dodger manager Dave Roberts said Buehler pitching “2 1/2 times through the order would be fantastic.”
Buehler will be pitching on three days rest for the second time in his five-season major league career. The other time was for Game 4 of the NLDS against the Giants, when he allowed one run and three hits in 4 1/3 innings, striking out four and walking two in a 7-2 victory that tied the best-of-five series at two games apiece.
“As far as his body, mind, I feel very confident,” Roberts said before Saturday’s game.
Buehler last pitched Tuesday, allowing four runs and seven hits in 3 2/3 innings, walking three and striking out three as the Dodgers scored four runs in the eighth inning for a 6-5 victory. The three strikeouts were Buehler’s fewest in his 14 career postseason starts, one fewer than his previous career low in his previous start.
“There’s days where nothing seems to be working, kind of is what it is,” Buehler said. “At some point, you have to be better the next one. I don’t really have an explanation at this point.”
Max Scherzer had been scheduled to start against the Atlanta Braves. After listing their starting pitcher as “to be announced” earlier Saturday, the Dodgers announced via social media at 7 a.m. that Buehler would start as they seek to tie the best-of-seven series at three games apiece.
The decision not to start Scherzer came from “just in talking to him, the training staff, strength and conditioning staff, just seeing where he was at versus where Walker was at, we just felt it was best to give him an extra day,” Roberts said.
“He had catch play yesterday, and so at that point in time we were still kind of hopeful, but again, just hearing from the player we just felt that this gives us the best chance to win today as well as tomorrow,” Roberts said.
Scherzer told reporters Saturday he felt he would be ready to pitch Sunday if the Dodgers win Saturday to extend the series. Roberts said he was “very, very confident” Scherzer would be able to pitch Sunday if there is a game.
Scherzer most recently pitched Sunday, allowing two runs and four hits in 4 1/3 innings, striking out seven and walking one in a 5-4 loss. He did not figure in the decision.
“I would just say my arm was dead,” Scherzer said after a stint that matched his second-shortest stint among his 14 starts as a Dodger. “I could tell when I was warming up that it was still tired. And I’ve been in this situation before. You don’t want to always go out there and pitch full strength. Usually in those situations, kind of once you get past pitch 45, sometimes it kind of loosens up and you’re able to get deeper into a game.
“But after that third inning, it didn’t loosen up. It was still more tightening up. So, I could tell that my pitch count was going to be limited. I wasn’t going to be able to get truly deep into a game and I wasn’t going to be able to get to that 95-, 100-pitch count. I knew it was going to be sooner than that,” he continued.
“After the fourth inning, I was like, `Hey, if this is a long inning, you’re going to have to pull me, but if it’s a quick inning, I can go back out there.’ And that’s when we looked at the lineup and said, `All right, I got Swanson, the pinch hitter,’ and then at that point, I knew I wasn’t going to be better than (Alex) Vesia.”
Scherzer’s Sunday start came three days after he pitched the ninth inning of the Dodgers’ 2-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants in Game 5 of a National League Division Series, recording the first save of his professional career.
Ian Anderson will pitch for the Braves at Truist Park in Cumberland, Georgia in the second of a possible three opportunities to get the victory that would put them in the World Series for the first time since 1999.
Anderson last pitched Sunday, when he was lifted for a pinch-hitter after allowing two runs and three hits in three innings, walking three and striking out two in Atlanta’s 5-4 victory, as the Braves scored twice in the eighth and once in the ninth.
“It just wasn’t his day,” Braves’ manager Brian Snitker said. “The location wasn’t good.”
The Dodgers have won seven consecutive games when facing elimination, including three against Atlanta in the 2020 NLCS. The streak is the third-longest in MLB history behind the Giants’ 10-game streak from 2012-12 and the Kansas City Royals’ eight-game streak from 1985-2014.
The Dodgers are attempting to become the 15th MLB team in 90 attempts to overcome a three games-to-one deficit in a best-of-seven series.
Roberts opted to give Matt Beaty his first start since Game 1 of the NLDS, batting eighth and playing first base.
The Dodgers will have a different pitcher available Saturday, as they added left-hander David Price to their roster, replacing Joe Kelly, who suffered what manager Dave Roberts said was a bicep strain in Thursday’s 11-2 victory that will sideline him for the remainder of the postseason.
The 36-year-old five-time All-Star Game selection has not pitched since Oct. 2, when he allowed two runs and three hits against the Milwaukee Brewers in the next-to-last game of the regular season. Price was on the roster for the NLDS but not on the roster for the National League wild-card game.
Price was 5-2 with a 4.03 ERA in 11 starts and 28 relief appearances in the regular season.