2021 NLCS Game 3 Preview: Walker Buehler Makes Crucial Start For Dodgers, Justin Turner Back In Lineup
Walker Buehler, 2021 NLDS
Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports

After a disappointing start to the National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves, the Los Angeles Dodgers return home down 2-0 and facing a near must-win in Game 3.

This is the same spot the Dodgers were in last year against the Braves as they lost the first two games of the NLCS before rebounding. They also lost Game 4 to drop to 3-1 in the series but ultimately came back with three consecutive victories.

There is no one better to get the Dodgers back on the right track than Walker Buehler, who is one of the best postseason pitchers in baseball.

The Dodgers need him to pitch deep into the game as the bullpen has seen a lot of usage recently and they could be in for more of that in Game 4 or 5, depending on which day Julio Urias does not start.

“Well, I think if you look at both clubs, as far as usage and leverage uses, they’re in the same position we are,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.

“But the thing is that they have got a two-game lead in the series. So I think for us, Walker’s ready to go. He’s got an extra couple days, so certainly for Game 3 we’re going to lean on him. But, yeah, this is kind of how the series has played out and I think that both teams are in the same situation outside of the most important factor that they have got a 2-0 lead.”

Buehler had another phenomenal season, posting a 2.47 ERA and 3.15 FIP in 207.2 innings while striking out 26% of hitters and walking 6.4%.

In the postseason, he has a career 2.50 ERA in 13 starts (72 innings). Buehler made two starts last year against the Braves in the NLCS, allowing just one run over 11 innings.

Buehler briefly fell ill after starting on short rest, but said he’s since recovered and physically is recovered heading into Tuesday’s game.

The Braves give the ball to Charlie Morton, who was part of the 2017 Houston Astros team and pitched the final four innings of their victory in Game 7 of the World Series.

“Well, I try to forget it. But I don’t think we put up a baserunner or let alone put up any runs,” Roberts said about Morton shutting the Dodgers down in the Fall Classic.

“Charlie’s a great competitor. I’ve admired him for a long time from a far. He’s that old school ballplayer, competitor, will take the ball anytime, and it’s fun to compete against a guy like that. And I see Kershaw is a guy like that. Wainwright is a guy like that. Charlie is in that bucket, with like the Max Scherzer type, too.”

Morton was also on the Tampa Bay Rays last season and pitched in one game against the Dodgers during the World Series. He threw 4.1 innings and allowed five runs.

This season he pitched to to a 3.34 ERA and 3.17 FIP in 185.2 innings of work while striking out 28.6% of hitters and walking 7.7%.

Morton relies on his curveball often, which is a pitch that has given the Dodgers a lot of trouble this season. They will need to attack a fastball that he throws 36% of the time.

But more importantly, the Dodgers simply need to hit with runners in scoring position, which has been a problem for them throughout the postseason.

Through eight playoff games so far, they are batting .191/.305/.294 with four doubles, one home run and 17 RBI across 68 at-bats with a runner in scoring position.

“I think in that particular instance it’s an approach thing,” Roberts said. “It’s an approach thing and I think that certain times in scoring position we, we’re expanding too much.”

Justin Turner is back in the Dodgers lineup after being limited to a pinch-hit appearance because of a neck stinger. Roberts said the soreness in Turner’s neck has dissipated and his range of motion improved over the past two days.

Dodgers lineup

RF: Mookie Betts
SS: Corey Seager
2B: Trea Turner
C: Will Smith
3B: Justin Turner
CF: Gavin Lux
1B: Cody Bellinger
LF: Chris Taylor
P: Walker Buehler

Braves lineup

LF: Eddie Rosario
1B: Freddie Freeman
2B: Ozzie Albies
3B: Austin Riley
RF: Joc Pederson
CF: Adam Duvall
C: Travis d’Arnaud
SS: Dansby Swanson
P: Charlie Morton

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