Closing in on a decade spent as the anchor of the Los Angeles Dodgers starting rotation, some believed a passing of the torch from Clayton Kershaw to Walker Buehler began last year. Then as both pitchers endured some struggles at the start of this season, Hyun-Jin Ryu emerged as an ace.
While Ryu has been a steady presence for the Dodgers — outside of a brief stretch spent on the 10-day injured list with a groin strain and now because of neck stiffness — Buehler and Kershaw have each had their share of dominant performances as well.
The latest of which came Saturday night as Buehler tossed the second complete game of his career. He finished with 15 strikeouts, finishing one short of tying a career-best mark that was set in his first complete game earlier this season.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts acknowledged Buehler’s starts have taken on a feeling Kershaw’s long held — where there was a sense history could be made any given time he was on the mound.
“Obviously last year he really had a tremendous season but that Game 163 here, where he just really picked us up big time and the fans were so electric, it was a do-or-die game,” Roberts began to explain. “He took that into the postseason, and Walker certainly is that guy.”
While recognizing the young right-hander has thrust himself into the upper-echelon of starters, Roberts noted Kershaw and Ryu are there as well.
“But I think in their own rights, Clayton has that, because of the tenure. Ryu has it in a more subdued way,” he said. “But that energy, that buzz, people like velocity, they like the strike out. That’s what you get from Walker.”
While each member of the trio has their own unique approach to start, a similarity they share is career success at Dodger Stadium. “Hyun-Jin has similar numbers like that and I think Clayton obviously has pitched really well here too,” Roberts said.
“I know that the rhythm and routine of being at home, they talk about how they like the mound. You get 50,000 people here that are smelling strikeouts and you just feed off that energy. I think it just works to the benefit of all three of those guys.”
Even when Buehler, Kershaw or Ryu has endured a bit of a rocky start, it more times than not has been followed with a bounce-back performance. “It’s really important,” Roberts said of their ability to do such.
“It’s nice when you have guys that have that capacity. The way that Dustin came up, I know Walker was excited to see Dustin make his debut and he wanted to go out there and get us back on the winning track.
“When you have a lot of good starting pitchers, that’s what’s allowed us to kind of sustain this momentum all season. They definitely feed off one another.”