If you watched Walker Buehler pitch last Monday, it is sometimes hard to remember that he is a rookie starting pitcher. And today, when Buehler takes the mound in Atlanta, he will become one of just a few Dodger rookie pitchers to start a postseason game.
One thing up front, for this article, I am not including Dodger pitchers who pitched professionally in Asia before coming to Los Angeles. There are four pitchers, Hideo Nomo, Hiroki Kuroda, Hyun-jin Ryu and Kenta Maeda who all started postseason games in their first seasons with Los Angeles.
Buehler will become the first Dodger rookie that was drafted by the Dodgers to make a postseason start.
Going back to 1947, with Buehler’s start today, there have been thirteen rookie pitchers to start a postseason game for the Dodgers, seven with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
- Harry Taylor holds the distinction of the only World Series starting pitcher to not record an out and give up an unearned run. Taylor started Game 4 of the 1947 World Series.
- Don Newcombe made two starts in the 1949 World Series. Newcombe was the third recipient of National League Rookie of the Year Award. He went 17-8 and pitched 244⅓ innings with a 3.17 ERA.
- Joe Black was the 1952 National League Rookie of the Year awardee. Despite making just two starts in the regular season, Black started three times in the 1952 World Series.
- Billy Loes started Game 6 for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1952 World Series.
- Johnny Podres, who would become the first World Series MVP for the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers, started Game 5 of the 1953 World Series in his rookie season.
- Roger Craig was a rookie for the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers and he started and won Game 5 in that year’s World Series.
- Another rookie starter in the 1955 World Series was Karl Spooner. Spooner would not pitch in the major leagues again after his Game 6 start.
- Fernando Valenzuela ended his historic 1981 rookie season by making starts in each of the three postseason series the Dodgers played that season. His last start in Game 3 of the 1981 World Series would be the first matchup on two Rookie of the Year Award winners in the season they won the award.
- Tim Belcher was undefeated in four starts in the 1988 postseason (though he was helped by a certain pinch-hit home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series).
- Ismael Valdéz finished seventh in the 1995 Rookie of the Year balloting behind teammate Hideo Nomo and future HOF Chipper Jones. Valdéz made one start in the 1995 NLDS and he pitched well, going seven innings and giving up two unearned runs and three hits against the Cincinnati Reds.
- Fan favorite Hung-Chih Kuo started Game 2 of the 2006 NLDS against the New York Mets.
- Julio Urías started Game 4 of the 2016 NLCS against the Chicago Cubs. Urías had pitched 77 innings in his rookie season with the Dodgers and he was just two months past his 20th birthday when he made that start. It did not go well for Urías as he gave up four runs in 3⅔ innings pitched.
Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Don Sutton all pitched for pennant winning teams in their rookie seasons but they did not start in that season’s World Series. Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley played for division winning teams in their rookie seasons but neither of them started in the playoffs that season.
Walker Buehler has already shown that he can pitch in big games, today’s start can only add to that reputation.
Time: 5:07 p.m. PDT