Although the Los Angeles Dodgers have turned to Walker Buehler as their Game 1 starter more times than not in recent years, it was Clayton Kershaw who received the ball against the Tampa Bay Rays in this year’s World Series opener.
This was because the Dodgers had only one day to prepare for the Rays after erasing a 3-1 deficit against the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series. Buehler had last pitched in Game 6 and was unavailable.
For Kershaw, it marked his third career World Series Game 1 start, having also taken the mound in such contests against the Houston Astros (2017) and Boston Red Sox (2018).
The left-hander was dominant, limiting the Rays to only one run on two hits in six innings of work. Buehler would make his first appearance two games later with the series all tied at one win apiece.
The 26-year-old matched Kershaw with six innings of one-run ball, giving up just three hits while striking out 10 batters. Despite MLB on FOX analyst Frank Thomas suggesting that Buehler was the new ace of the Dodgers, the right-hander downplayed that and stated he will always be No. 2 until Kershaw hangs up his cleats:
“I don’t believe in that, man. We’ve got one of the best ever in that clubhouse. Until he’s done here, then I’m the No. 2, and that’s fine with me.”
While some feel Buehler has overtaken Kershaw as the Dodgers’ ace, the two have continuously brushed aside there being any significance with the order of the starting rotation — particularly in the postseason.
Kershaw, Buehler both learn from relationship
Although most consider Buehler to be learning from Kershaw, the longtime explained he too has benefitted from their relationship.
“Walk’s been awesome. I think we’ve learned from each other. I like the way he goes about things, I think it can kind of relax me at times just to see how he does it,” Kershaw recently said.
“I think likewise for him, maybe I can give him a little bit more structure to what he does. I think it’s a good balance for both of us. At the end of the day, he goes out there and the way he competes, obviously his stuff separates himself, but he’s a very good competitor on the mound.
“At the end of the day the conviction that he has is what separates him. Off the field, I think it’s been great for both of us. I like watching him throw.”
Buehler similarly discussed the impact Kershaw has had on him in his young career. “It probably hasn’t changed a whole lot on my end,” Buehler said of his relationship with the longtime Dodgers ace.
“Obviously walking into a clubhouse with a guy like that, there’s going to be instant respect. And just watching what he does day to day, that obviously hasn’t changed for me.
“If anything it’s the other way; you’d probably have to ask him. I can get away with a little bit more and give him a little more crap than I used to. Maybe that’s just because I’ve been here for a little bit now.”
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