After cautiously ushering Walker Buehler up the Minor League ranks, the Los Angeles Dodgers have entrusted him in big situations with plenty of regularity since becoming a full-time member of the starting rotation.
When Buehler made his MLB debut in 2017, all eight games he appeared in were out of the bullpen. He started for L.A. the following year and after the Dodgers climbed back up the National League West standings, Buehler started Game 163 against the Colorado Rockies to decide the division.
Now in his third postseason, Buehler has started Game 1 in each series thus far. Saturday represented his first time making a second start in a postseason series this year. Buehler once again delivered, firing six shutout innings to help the Dodgers force a Game 7 in the National League Championship Series.
The Dodgers staked him a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, though the Atlanta Brave loaded the bases with nobody out in the second. Buehler worked out of the jam behind a pair of strikeouts and a groundout.
“To be honest with you, it sounds very odd, but I’ve never felt that calm in a baseball game in my career,” Buehler said after the Dodgers’ win. “Especially in a spot like that. Barnes steered me through it.
“That’s all there really is to it. We made the pitches we needed to and got out of it. The way he was able to guide me through that inning was about as good as I’ve ever seen.”
Buehler bullied his way out of trouble by pumping one electric fastball after another. The strategy paid off despite coming against the best fastball-hitting team in the Majors. “It’s my best pitch,” Buehler said.
“I don’t know what else to say besides that. Teams do what they do over the course of the year, I do what I do over the course of the year. At the end of the day that’s my best pitch and in a spot like that I was lucky to put them in the right spot.”
As for the mental aspect of remaining composed as pressure mounted, Buehler attributed that to learning from prior experiences. “I’ve failed in those moments. I can handle that failure,” he said.
“I’ve been through it and I’ve been good after it. That failure doesn’t really scare me anymore. Obviously you don’t want to fail, but there’s a different feeling when you’re not scared of that failure.”
Buehler moving past blister trouble
Buehler was bothered by blisters on his right hand over the final month of the regular season and into the playoffs. He’s made steady progress in navigating and recovering from them, and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said the blisters no longer are an inning-by-inning issue.
“We have a good plan and a great team. We have a great team on the field and off the field. They’ve figured it out,” Buehler said.
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in our shows, and more!