Alexander: Dodgers’ Walker Buehler certainly looked like an ace in NL West clincher

first_img Cody Bellinger homer gives Dodgers their first walkoff win of season Dodgers’ Max Muncy trying to work his way out of slow start One sequence illustrates his dominance. Trevor Story had come in 9 for 25 with two doubles, a triple, three homers and five RBIs in his last seven games. On Story’s first at-bat, Buehler shattered his bat with a 97 mph two-seam fastball and induced a weak grounder to the mound. His second time up, Story took a 97 mph two-seamer and then flied out to left on that 84 mph slider.Buehler said he did approach it like a big game instead of trying to downplay the moment – “If you have a pulse, you know these kinds of games are going to get you going,” he said – but refused to allow himself to be overwhelmed.“I’ve pitched in some big games before,” he said. “But this is kind of a different level. But the more experience you get, the easier that stuff is to handle. So I’ve just got to keep working through it.”He looked poised, acted comfortable and pitched with confidence. That’s what aces do.It shouldn’t be long [email protected]@Jim_Alexander on Twitter How Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling topped the baseball podcast empire Clayton Kershaw is still the Dodgers’ No. 1, and he will open the best-of-five NLDS here Thursday against Atlanta. But the kid, the 24-year-old rookie, demonstrated in Monday’s Game 163 against Colorado that he has not only the stuff but the spine to handle the big moments.No, let’s put it a better way: To make the big moments his own.Buehler carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning, wound up giving up one hit in 6-2/3 innings and displayed dominance despite just striking out three. He looked like he absolutely belonged in the middle of the diamond at that moment. And when he came off, he received a standing ovation and a curtain call and didn’t seem fazed by either.The only area he might have had an issue, after the Dodgers’ 5-2 victory wrapped up the division title, was the on-field postgame interview when he noted: “This is the loudest I’ve ever seen this place. We need this the whole (expletive) playoffs.”“I apologize to all the children, all the parents, all the listening ears,” he said later. “But I’m from Kentucky. We don’t hold back when we get a little excited, so I’m sorry about that.” Dodgers hit seven home runs, sweep Colorado Rockies center_img LOS ANGELES — Two weeks ago in This Space, we referred to Walker Buehler as the Dodgers’ Ace-In-Waiting, and his response was short and emphatic.“Nope,” he said.Sorry, Walker. We’re going back there. Not only is it accurate, but the wait might be shorter – a lot shorter — than most people realize.Aces go out and impose their will in the most meaningful game of the year, which in this case was the game that meant the difference between the NL Division Series and the do-or-die wild-card game for the Dodgers. (Or, as former Vanderbilt pitcher Buehler put it a few days ago, the equivalent of an NCAA regional winner’s bracket and loser’s bracket game.) Fire danger is on Dave Roberts’ mind as Dodgers head to San Francisco He shouldn’t feel bad. The Kings’ Jonathan Quick and Dustin Brown and the mayor of L.A., Eric Garcetti, all have slipped during championship celebrations. And so has Chase Utley, the sage veteran from whom many of these Dodgers take their cues.Buehler is an interesting blend. There is a self-assurance that doesn’t border on cockiness, it bleeds into it. At the same time, he respects his elders on the pitching staff and soaks up the information they provide.“In the (fifth) inning, I’m coming down to talk to him about the double-switch, when they put (Chris) Iannetta in,” pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said. “And Kersh and Rich (Hill) are down there, and he’s like, ‘My curveball, arggh.’ And they’re in the middle of the inning talking about, ‘Don’t do it too early, just trust it, get it out front.’ They’re there to help each other.”Honeycutt told another story, of how a couple of weeks ago Buehler was moaning about the grip on his slider and how he needed to develop a new one.“And then he comes in today and he’s like, ‘I finally started throwing those 82 to 84,’” the pitching coach said. “I’m like, you keep it at that speed they’ve got no chance with your fastball.“I mean, his changeup, his curveball, all those things are going to continue to develop because he expects to be able to do unbelievable (things). For a young guy to have not only great stuff but have really good command of almost everything he throws … He’s got tremendous stuff, but he’s got just enough cockiness in him. I think our veterans keep him in line just right.“But he wants the ball. He doesn’t shy away from any situation. And I think that’s a great attribute, for him and for us.”Colorado had rolled up 71 runs in its previous 10 games, but the Rockies were just as helpless against Buehler this time as they were two weeks ago, albeit in a different way, when he struck out 12 and gave up three hits and two unearned runs in six innings.Related Articles Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img

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