Every start he makes, every time he dominates, Walker Buehler burnishes a résumé that’s beginning to resemble those of the best postseason pitchers ever. All he did in Game 3 of the World Series on Friday was bolster his case.
Buehler became the first pitcher in World Series history to record double-digit strikeouts in six innings, and his Los Angeles Dodgers teammates used big bats and small ball to overwhelm the Tampa Bay Rays in a 6-2 victory that left the Dodgers two wins shy of their first championship since 1988.
The postseason bona fides of Buehler, a 26-year-old right-hander, were already impressive. His six-inning, three-hit, one-run, one-walk, 10-strikeout performance ranked among his most dominant yet.
“I think the more you do these things the calmer you get,” Buehler said. “I don’t want to keep harping on it, but I enjoy doing this. And I feel good in these spots.”
The last pitcher as young as Buehler to strike out 10 in a World Series game was the Marlins’ Josh Beckett in 2003. The only other Dodgers to punch out 10 and allow three or fewer hits in a World Series game were Sandy Koufax and Clayton Kershaw.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, asked how much he appreciated Buehler for a pitcher his age, said he was “kind of mired in it” and “living through it.”
“I haven’t put it all together and grasped or wrapped my head around all that he’s accomplished in this short period of time,” Roberts said. “Being a big-game pitcher and really succeeding on this stage, there’s only a few guys currently and throughout history. He’s in some really elite company, and I’m just happy he’s wearing a Dodger uniform.”
Relying heavily on a four-seam fastball that sat at 97 mph, Buehler attacked all four quadrants of the strike zone with his typical equanimity: the slow, deliberate build of his windup into an explosive pitch that generated 12 swings and misses. His curveball, slider and cutter were on point, too, the first time all four pitches have worked this postseason after blisters hindered him in earlier rounds.