Needing victories over the weekend to secure another postseason berth, the Los Angeles Dodgers used Clayton Kershaw during their series with the San Francisco Giants. Back-to-back wins at AT&T Park left open the possibility of the Dodgers clinching the National League West.
After news of the Washington Nationals deciding against starting Max Scherzer against the Colorado Rockies in the regular season finale, the Dodgers reversed course and handed the ball to Rich Hill on Sunday.
That meant saving Walker Buehler for a potential Game 163 that would decide the NL West champion. That scenario came to fruition, and Buehler, having voiced supreme confidence in himself, went out and dominated the Rockies.
The performance added to what was an impressive season for the right-hander. Buehler’s ascension to an ace-caliber pitcher has not been lost on Kershaw, who raved about the rookie during the NL West celebration, as seen on SportsNet LA:
“You can’t teach that stuff. The stuff that he has, to go along with his competitiveness, there’s not a better way to say it. He’s just got some — he’s got some big balls. I mean, there’s no other way to say it. It’s been fun to watch him pitch. I’ll never tell him how good he is. He already knows that, but I enjoy having him around and I’m glad he’s on our team.”
With the division on the line, Buehler carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning. He lost it on Charlie Blackmon’s one-out single but that stood as the only hit Buehler allowed over 6.2 shutout frames.
He closed the season 8-5 with a 2.26 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. With Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu likely to start against the Atlanta Braves in Games 1 and 2, respectively, Buehler presumably will make his NL Division Series and postseason debut in Game 3 at SunTrust Park.