The Dodgers took Game 1 of the best-of-five NLDS in Dodger Stadium on Thursday night as they blanked the Nationals by a score of 6-0 (box score). The Dodgers got six shutout innings from 25-year-old right-hander Walker Buehler, three RBI from Max Muncy, and back-to-back home runs from Gavin Lux and Joc Pederson to ice it in the eighth inning.
Buehler's counterpart Patrick Corbin overcame early control problems to pitch solidly, as he allowed two runs and one earned run over six innings. However, the Washington bullpen, a shortcoming for almost the entire season, allowed the Dodgers to pad their lead in the middle and late innings.
Why the Dodgers won
While the six runs and two homers are duly noted, this was about Buehler. Over those six shutout innings, he struck out eight, walked three, and allowed only one hit. He peaked at 99 mph with his fastball, and that's to say nothing of his breaking stuff:
Buehler got an impressive 18 swings and misses in those six innings of work. This gem makes Buehler the youngest pitcher in MLB history to allow zero runs and no more than one hit while striking out at least eight batters in a postseason start. Most encouragingly for the Dodgers, his dominant outing comes after what had been a subpar September by his standards.
It also continues a recent trend of postseason excellence from Buehler. Among Dodgers, his 37 strikeouts through five postseason starts ranks second only to Sandy Koufax's 39 strikeouts over that same span. Enviable company, that. Buehler's also the first pitcher in MLB history to strike out at least seven batters in each of his first five postseason starts. So, yeah, he was the story on Thursday night.
Why the Nationals lost
The Nationals didn't get their second hit of the until Trea Turner's leadoff double in the ninth, and that sort of says it all. The Nats were shut out during the regular season just eight times and just three times after June 13. They ranked second in the NL in runs scored this year and second in OPS, but the bats didn't show up in Game 1. There's hardly any shame in getting suffocated by the likes of Buehler, but the Nats also weren't able to break through against a typically suspect Dodger bullpen.
Play of the game
Note the unexpectedly high hop that ball took toward the end of its journey into Rendon's glove. What a play.
Game 2 is back at Dodger Stadium and scheduled for a first pitch 9:37 p.m. ET on Friday. Stephen Strasburg goes for the Nats, and he'll do so on just two-days' rest. On the other hand, he threw just 34 pitches across three innings in the NL Wild Card Game. Opposing him will be Dodger stalwart Clayton Kershaw, and he's of course the author of much inconsistency throughout his playoff career. He'll surely be tested, as the potent Washington offense was somewhat better against lefties this season.
To see how the NLDS Game 1 unfolded in real time, take a look at our live blog below.
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