LOS ANGELES (AP) — From upper-deck spectator to October ace.
Walker Buehler looked nothing like the rookie he is, giving the Los Angeles Dodgers the pitching performance they desperately needed in Game 3 of the World Series.
With the Dodgers facing a 2-0 deficit, Buehler shut out the Boston Red Sox for seven innings, holding the highest-scoring team in the majors to two measly singles. Los Angeles finally won 3-2 on Max Muncy’s home run off Nathan Eovaldi in the 18th, ending the longest game in postseason history after 7 hours, 20 minutes.
“I was just doing anything you can think to try and bring a little luck. I would hang out in certain places and move when that didn’t work,” Buehler said.
The right-hander threw a career-high 108 pitches. After he was pulled, closer Kenley Jansen gave up a tying home run to Jackie Bradley Jr. in the eighth, and the game went on and on.
A year ago, Buehler and his younger sister watched Game 2 of the World Series against Houston from an upper level at Dodger Stadium. He’d made his big league debut earlier in the year, pitched a little in relief and was left off the postseason roster.
This time, he was the center of attention.
“It’s pretty cool but at the same time you try to stay within yourself and pitch well,” he said.
The 24-year-old Buehler inserted his name among the Dodgers pitching greats who cemented their reputations in October: Koufax, Drysdale, Valenzuela and Hershiser.
Fittingly, Sandy Koufax stood and applauded Buehler as he placidly strode off the mound to end the sixth.
With two outs in the seventh, fans were on their feet chanting “Walker Buehler!” and whipping blue towels.
Once J.D. Martinez went down swinging for the third out, the crowd of 53,114 erupted and Buehler, usually unemotional, let out a roar and exhorted the fans to get even louder. He walked a gauntlet of high-fives back in the dugout, sharing a hug with veteran ace Clayton Kershaw.
Buehler walked none, struck out seven and threw a career-high 108 pitches. Even though Muncy won the game, some fans were still chanting Buehler’s name after it was over.
“His stuff is amazing. He made adjustments,” Boston manager Alex Cora said. “We were putting good at-bats early on. He was throwing the four-seamer, and all of a sudden he started throwing cutters and changeups, and he was able to keep us off balance. For him to go seven at this stage, they needed it and he did an outstanding job.”
The performance came after Buehler pitched the Dodgers past Colorado in a tiebreaker for the NL West title and then started Game 7 of the NL Championship Series at Milwaukee as Los Angeles won its second straight pennant.
Over his past five starts, Buehler is 1-1 with a 2.46 ERA and 18 strikeouts against four walks.
“He did a tremendous job. It tells you how good he is, and he pitched lights out. He’s one of our aces,” shortstop Manny Machado said.
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