The Dodgers did not suffer any visible letdown after losing their second-straight World Series during their 2019 regular season. They won 106 games and were consistently good from beginning to end this past season.
But with their large lead, they have had a lot of time to contemplate and prepare for the postseason and they will try to replicate what they did in yesterday’s Game 1 for the rest of October.
The Dodgers 6-0 win over the Nationals featured strong starting pitching, bullpen work and a patient offense.
Walker Buehler set the tone with six scoreless innings pitched
No Dodger starting pitcher has the potential to dominate a game like Walker Buehler. And while he did not match his complete game starts he had this season, his six scoreless innings kept the Dodgers in front until they could add more runs in the late innings.
Buehler gave up just one hit and his three walks were a little unusual for him. But he did strike out eight and he had good fastball command to keep the Nationals in check all game.
Walker Buehler is the 4th pitcher in MLB postseason history to throw at least 6 innings and allow 2 or fewer hits in consecutive games. He also did that in Game 3 of the 2018 World Series.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 4, 2019
He joins Kenny Rogers (2006), Roger Clemens (2000) and Pedro Martínez (1999). pic.twitter.com/qPsB1f4hi5
The Dodgers and Buehler held on to a slim one-run lead until they added a run in the fifth. But Buehler only had three plate appearances against him with runners in scoring position and the Nationals were 0-for-2 with a walk against him.
Relievers delivered in their first postseason appearance
The Dodgers entered the top of the seventh with a two-run lead and nine more outs to get to get the win.
Following Buehler, the Dodgers had their lefty specialist Adam Kolarek face the left-handed Juan Soto. Kolarek would strikeout Soto and then exit for righthander Kenta Maeda.
Maeda retired the next two in order. The Dodgers added two runs to their lead in the bottom of the seventh and Maeda followed that with a perfect eighth inning with two strikeouts.
With the Dodgers adding two more runs, the Dodgers went to Joe Kelly making his postseason debut in a Dodger uniform. After giving up a leadoff double, Kelly got a ground out and then struck out Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto to end the game.
For the night, Dodger relievers faced ten batters and they held them to one hit with five strikeouts.
You would expect more high leverage situations going forward but this was a good way for the Dodger relievers to get into this series.
Dodgers need to take advantage of their opportunities to score
When Max Muncy came up with two outs and the bases loaded in the seventh inning, it was the tenth plate appearance the Dodgers had with runners in scoring position. The Dodgers were already 0-for-6 with three walks.
Muncy would single home two runs to extend the Dodger lead to 4-0 and gave the Dodgers a cushion they never gave up.
Fortunately, the Dodgers did not have to regret the bottom of the fourth inning when they had runners on first and third and no outs only to see Will Smith, Walker Buehler and A.J. Pollock retired in order without scoring the runner on third base.
It should be pointed out here that the Dodger offense did do two things they have done this season, they were patient in terms of receiving seven walks and they eventually hit home runs.
Gavin Lux made his first postseason plate appearance memorable with a pinch-hit home run in the eighth inning.
Stage fright for the rook? Nah. pic.twitter.com/5DhnX0pjJM— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) October 4, 2019
Youngest players to homer in postseason debut, MLB history:— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) October 4, 2019
1903 Jimmy Sebring -- 21 years, 190 days
2005 Brian McCann -- 21 years, 228 days
2015 Rougned Odor -- 21 years, 247 days
2019 Gavin Lux -- 21 years, 314 days
And then Joc Pederson broke the baseball on this swing.
Pretty sure the foul pole stopped that from leaving the stadium. pic.twitter.com/P5az6gIJWC— MLB (@MLB) October 4, 2019
Joc Pederson's HR had a 114.9 mph exit velocity.— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) October 4, 2019
That's the 5th-hardest hit HR in the postseason tracked by Statcast (since 2015), just behind Avisail Garcia's 115.2 mph HR from last night.
So overall, it was a game where manager Dave Roberts saw his team perform well when they needed to and the next ask is to see if they can continue to perform this way throughout October.