Down 2-0 in the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers once again will rest their hopes on the right arm of a 24-year-old rookie.
Walker Buehler will take the mound when the Dodgers host the Boston Red Sox in Game 3 of the best-of-seven series Friday night. The Red Sox won the first two games in Boston on the strength of two-out rallies and dominant pitching.
Buehler’s playoff run essentially began in Game 163 of the regular season, when he pitched the Dodgers past the Colorado Rockies in the National League West tiebreaker.
After a subpar start in Game 3 of the NL Division Series against the Atlanta Braves, Buehler went seven gritty innings in Game 3 of the NL Championship Series against the Milwaukee Brewers before leading Los Angeles to the World Series with a 4 2/3-inning, one-run outing in Game 7.
“He’s got a lot of tools,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Buehler prior to Game 2. “But the No. 1 thing with Walker is that when he is good, he’s got good fastball command.”
Buehler will need to be on his game against the red-hot Red Sox, who have won six in a row and are 5-0 on the road this postseason.
After pulling away late for an 8-4 win in Game 1 against the Dodgers, the Red Sox trailed 2-1 in the fifth inning of Game 2. With two outs in the frame, Boston’s next five batters reached, culminating in a tiebreaking, two-run single by J.D. Martinez for a 4-2 lead that would hold up the rest of the way.
“That was a great example of just how you grind out an inning, grind out at-bats,” Martinez said. “Everybody, you know, something we preach about. And we were talking about it after the game — after that inning, actually. Underneath, that was such a perfect example of just grinding at-bats out, finding ways to get guys on and keeping the line moving.”
Martinez, however, might not be available for Game 3. He was due to move from designated hitter to right field, but a sore right ankle might scuttle that plan. If and when Martinez plays in the field, Mookie Betts will move from right field to center. There is no chance Betts will start at second base, his original major league position, Boston manager Alex Cora said Thursday.
The Red Sox entered Game 2 with a robust .405 average with two outs and runners in scoring position this postseason. Having scored all four of their runs Wednesday night in such situations, they are now up to .415.
The Dodgers, on the other hand, went down in order across their last 16 batters on Wednesday. Facing Red Sox right-hander Rick Porcello in Game 3, Roberts has ensured that his lineup will look different Friday night.
In going against left-handers Chris Sale and David Price in the first two games of the series, Roberts left the four team leaders in home runs during the regular season — Max Muncy, Cody Bellinger, Joc Pederson and Yasmani Grandal — out of the starting lineup.
“This is something that we’ve done a lot in September and throughout the postseason, and it’s proved to be successful,” Roberts said. “And those guys are still getting in games and staying current. But, again, when guys are in there, they’ve just got to be productive. So we’ve got a lot of good players and we’ve got a long way to go.”
For his part, Porcello relishes the opportunity to face the Dodgers’ big bats.
“I’m ready to go,” he said. “There’s no tired right now. There’s no soreness. Everyone’s feeling something. It’s October, whatever. We’ve been playing for nine months. So that’s all out the window. There’s no excuses. You get the ball, you get the opportunity, whatever it is, you take the opportunity and make the most of it.”
The Red Sox are seeking their fourth World Series title in the last 15 years, having won on the strength of sweeps in 2004 and 2007. They bested the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 6 at Fenway Park in 2013.
“At least we know if things don’t go well in L.A., we’re coming back,” Cora said. “So that’s good.”
—Field Level Media