The Los Angeles Dodgers entrusted Walker Buehler to help them begin the National League Division Series on the right foot and he rose to the occasion, outdueling Patrick Corbin in a 6-0 win over the Washington Nationals in Game 1.
Buehler bookended a 1-2-3 first inning with strikeouts and benefitted from a line-drive double play to end the second after allowing a leadoff single. He faced the minimum through three innings but worked himself into trouble by walking the bases loaded in the fourth.
Buehler wiggled out of the jam by fielding a chopper hit back to the mound. He wound up getting through six scoreless innings with just the one hit allowed, three walks and eight strikeouts.
Buehler became the first pitcher in MLB history to record at least seven strikeouts in each of his first five career postseason games.
It bested the effort of Corbin, who had a strong outing in his own right. Particularly when factoring in Corbin was wild in the first inning. He walked four, allowing the Dodgers to take a 1-0 lead, and labored to the tune of 31 pitches.
The southpaw settled in from there and similarly worked out of trouble after singles by Max Muncy and Corey Seager gave the Dodgers runners at the corners with nobody out. Will Smith was called out on strikes, Buehler struck out on a sacrifice bunt attempt, and A.J. Pollock grounded out.
Cody Bellinger’s two-out walk led to a run when Chirs Taylor kept the inning alive with an infield single and Howie Kendrick committed his second error of the game. Muncy’s grounder to first base went through Kendrick’s legs and down the right-field line, bringing in a run.
Adam Eaton easily threw Taylor out at home plate to prevent a second insurance run from scoring. While it kept the Nationals’ deficit at a manageable 2-0, Fernando Rodney was unable to keep it thereupon inheriting two baserunners in the seventh inning.
He walked the bases loaded, then allowed a two-run single to Muncy. The Dodgers then added two more runs in the eighth on home runs by Gavin Lux and Joc Pederson to extend the lead to 6-0. The home run for Lux was in his first career postseason at-bat.
That provided the Dodgers bullpen with breathing room as they followed Buehler with three scoreless innings.
Adam Kolarek and Kenta Maeda combined to work the seventh inning, the right-hander also handled the eighth and Joe Kelly recorded the final three outs of the game.