1. Buehler was brilliant
Dodgers starter Walker Buehler looked the part of a Game 1 starter last postseason and that continued through Game 1 on Thursday night. He allowed a just one hit in six innings of work while striking out eight. He was rocking high-90s heat with movement while dropping in the sinker and knuckle curve on occasion.
He did run into trouble with three walks in the fourth inning, but was able to get out of the self-inflicted jam. Other than that, the Nationals did absolutely nothing against him.
Clayton Kershaw to Walker Buehler., it appears the torch of playoff ace for the Dodgers has been passed from
2. Credit the L.A. bullpen, too
The Dodgers' bullpen was shaky for a while, but it actually hasn't been a problem recently. The second-half bullpen ERA was a very palatable 3.64, and in September it was 2.94. For reference, the full season leader in bullpen ERA was the Rays at 3.66. Things are fine. That was on display once Buehler was removed with Adam Kolarek getting a strikeout, Kenta Maeda getting five outs and Joe Kelly pitching a scoreless ninth after allowing a Trea Turner double.
3. The Nationals bullpen remains a problem
During the regular season, the Nationals had a 5.66 bullpen ERA, which was dead last in all of baseball. Yes, somehow, the Nationals relievers were worse than the Orioles, Rockies and Royals. That's pretty jaw-dropping. With how much Sean Doolittle struggled -- and was injured -- down the stretch, there really aren't many reliable options when Dave Martinez looks at his relievers.
Things turned immediately after the removal of starter Patrick Corbin on Thursday. Tanner Rainey got a strikeout, but then issued a walk and gave up a single. Then it was Fernando Rodney, who also started with a strikeout, but then issued a walk to load the bases before Max Muncy gave the Dodgers breathing room with a two-RBI single.
Strickland also gave up a homer to Joc Pederson.
The stud starters simply have to work deeper into games than six innings, because the bullpen just isn't good enough to survive for three innings. The problem was, the Game 1 starter threw far too many pitches due to walks.
4. Corbin's lack of command came back to bite him
The Dodgers did not hit the ball hard often against Corbin, but he missed spots all night and walked too many hitters against an offense that will eventually make you pay.
Corbin issued five walks. He only walked five in a game twice this season (five on June 6; six on Sept. 6). What's concerning is that he issued at least four walks seven times this season and did so five times in the regular season's final month.
In Thursday's first inning, Corbin went through six hitters without a ball being put into play. Two of the hitters struck out, but that left four walks. He spotted the Dodgers a run all on his own.
He would settle in for the next three innings and struck out two to start the fifth, but then he issued a walk to Cody Bellinger. Bellinger would come around to score. Though we can't put all of that on Corbin ...
5. Kendrick is not a first baseman
The Nationals need Howie Kendrick's bat in the lineup and the only real place he can play is first. He's not a first baseman and it showed in Game 1. He committed an error in the second inning that was mostly harmless, though making your pitcher get extra outs is never good. Later, he made another one that did matter.
That gave the Dodgers an insurance run. As you can see, it would've been two if not for Adam Eaton's excellent throw from right field.
The Nationals probably have to stick with Kendrick at first due to the offensive gains, but with what are expected to be pitcher's duels throughout this series, there's a big risk in keeping him there on defense.
6. Game 2 features another stellar pitching matchup
Corbin vs. Buehler didn't see a whole lot of offense and that's unlikely to change in Game 2.
Stephen Strasburg to the hill. He's been great this season, including a stint in relief in Tuesday's Wild Card Game. He'll only be on two days' rest, though, so even though he only threw 34 pitches, there has to be some level of concern.
Clayton Kershaw takes the hill for the Dodgers and the future Hall of Famer is still very good, even if he's past his prime. Kershaw did recently have a six-start stretch from Aug. 20-Sept. 20 where he pitched to a 5.24 ERA. His last start was great, but it was against the Padres. Wile he has lots of great postseason starts (eight shutout innings last year in the NLDS), he also has a litany of clunkers.
So while it seems like we'll see another duel -- and I personally prefer those in the playoffs -- there's the possibility the offenses get going on Friday.