The Los Angeles Dodgers upended the Tampa Bay Rays by a 6-2 final in World Series Game 3 on Friday night. While the Dodgers offense did its share of heavy lifting against Charlie Morton and the Rays bullpen, the star of the show was right-handed starter Walker Buehler.
Buehler, 26, allowed one run on three hits (while holding the Rays hitless for the first four innings) and a walk over six innings of work. He struck out 10 batters along the way, making him the youngest pitcher to have double-digit punchouts in a World Series game since Josh Beckett did it as a 23-year-old in 2003, according to MLB.com's Sarah Langs. (Beckett, at the time, was a member of the Florida Marlins.) Buehler also became the first pitcher in World Series history to strike out 10 or more in six innings or fewer.
Buehler ended his night having coerced 18 whiffs on 93 pitches, or on more than a third of the swings the Rays took against him. The pitch that was most effective in generating empty swings was his four-seam fastball. Buehler's heater averaged 96.9 mph on the night and topped out at 98.8 mph.
Buehler entered Game 3 having made four starts this postseason. In those outings, he had accumulated a 1.89 ERA and an OPS against of .619. Buehler has now pitched six innings in consecutive starts -- notable, given that blister issues had limited him earlier in the playoffs.
The Dodgers now possess a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Per the website WhoWins.com, MLB teams that have held that same advantage in seven-game series have won more than 70 percent of the matchups. Teams who held home-field advantage -- and the Dodgers do, albeit in a bubble -- have won more than 75 percent of those matchups.
The Dodgers, then, appear to be in a very good position to win their first World Series in decades -- and Buehler is one reason why.