While manager Dave Roberts did not reveal the Dodgers‘ complete plan of attack against the Nationals in the upcoming NLDS, he did state that the team will be handing the ball to 25-year-old Walker Buehler in the opener on Thursday.
Roberts has already announced that veteran lefty Rich Hill will start Game 4 in Washington on Monday, if necessary. However, he still left the order of Games 2 and 3 up in the air. We know that Hyun-Jin Ryu and Clayton Kershaw will make those starts, but we don’t know who will throw in which games.
When Roberts was asked about his secrecy, he retorted that the Nationals are playing a similar type of hand as far as strategy goes.
“I don’t think the Nationals have announced who is going to start Game 2 or 3, have they?” Roberts remarked to Bill Plunkett of the OC Register in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.
Presumably, Ryu may be the better option to start Game 2 at home. During the 2019 season, the lefty’s splits were indeed significant. At home, he tallied a 10-1 record with a 1.93 ERA and a 0.943 WHIP with a 9.1 K/9. On the road, he posted a 4-4 record with a 2.72 ERA and a 1.075 WHIP alongside a 7.0 K/9.
Ryu is still among the front-runners for the 2019 Cy Young Award, as he captured the National League ERA title with a 2.32 overall mark, edging out Jacob deGrom of the Mets by more than a tenth of a full point. Ryu finished the regular season with a 14-5 record.
The aforementioned scenario would result in Kershaw starting Game 3, while also making him available in relief should the team need him in the latter games of the best-of-five series.
Kersh ended the regular season leading the Dodgers with 16 wins, which also gave him the third-best mark in the entire National League.
According to J.P. Hoornstra of the OC Register, the Nationals hit left-handed pitchers much better (an .828 on-base plus slugging percentage) than they did right-handers (.785) during the regular season, validating at least part of the reasoning to hand the ball to Buehler in Game 1 and a prospective Game 5.
During the postseason last year, Buehler made four starts and allowed 10 earned runs on 16 hits and four walks over 23-2/3 innings. Despite a few poor outings, the youngster rebounded in his only start of the 2018 World Series when he threw seven scoreless innings of two-hit ball against the Red Sox in Game 3.
In the 2019 regular season, Buehler went 14-4 with a 3.26 ERA and a 1.042 WHIP with a 10.6 K/9. He was named to the NL All-Star squad for the first time in his career.