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Walker Buehler on extra rest is the right formula for the Dodgers in Game 3

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Buehler has a 2.11 ERA in 20 starts with more than four days rest in 2021.

MLB: NLDS-San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

As the National League Championship Series shifts to Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers head into Tuesday afternoon with a starter that’s not limited by short rest or usage for the first time in five games.

Walker Buehler starts Game 3 against the Braves, looking to continue his big game success, especially at home.

Buehler is on six days of rest on Tuesday, after starting on short rest for the first time in his career in Game 4 of the NLDS against San Francisco. Buehler was effective in that start, allowing only one run, but was limited to just 71 pitches and 4⅓ innings.

After that start on three days rest, Buehler told reporters before Monday’s off-day workout at Dodger Stadium that he was no worse for wear.

“I didn’t know really what to expect,” Buehler said. “But it wasn’t too different than a normal start, I guess, so nothing real drastic.”

After Buehler last week, Julio Urías followed an opener in the winner-take-all Game 5 against the Giants, limited to just 59 pitches in four innings. Max Scherzer saved that game, then was pushed back from Game 1 of the NLCSnecessitating a bullpen game in the series opener against the Braves — and was gassed in his Game 2 start, pulled after 4⅓ innings.

But in Game 3, Buehler will be on six days rest, the 21st time in 36 starts he’s pitching on more than four days of rest.

Walker Buehler’s 2021 season

Rest Starts IP/start HR rate K-BB rate ERA FIP WHIP
Rest Starts IP/start HR rate K-BB rate ERA FIP WHIP
5-6 days 20 6.60 2.4% 20.8% 2.11 2.99 0.788
3-4 days 15 5.76 2.5% 17.2% 3.13 3.62 1.263
Regular season and postseason combined Source: Baseball Reference

While Buehler on four days (plus once, on three days) is a highly effective pitcher, one any team would gladly send to the mound in an important game. But Buehler has been much more effective when getting extra time in between appearances. His ERA is better by a run this year, his FIP is much better, and he averages nearly a full inning longer when he has extra rest.

Fourteen times in 2021, Buehler pitched at least seven innings. Only two came on four days rest.

After Dodgers relievers pitched 18⅔ innings over the previous four games — though with off days, that’s spread over an entire week — and with a bullpen game coming either Wednesday or Thursday, and a possibly-limited Urías in the other game, Game 3 sure seems like the right time to get as much as possible out of Buehler.

“With Walker being on extra rest, I think to have him, to push him to go deeper is certainly a very good option,” manager Dave Roberts said Monday.

Buehler in six career postseason starts at Dodger Stadium has allowed eight total runs. Add in his 6⅔ scoreless innings in Game 163 in 2018 — technically a regular season game — that’s a 1.73 ERA in playoff (or playoff-type) games in Los Angeles. All but one of those starts came with more than four days rest.

The Dodgers desperately need a win in this NLCS. They have the right person on the mound for it on Tuesday.

NLCS Game 3 info

Teams: Dodgers vs. Braves

Series: Atlanta leads, 2-0

Location: Dodger Stadium

Time: 2:08 p.m.

TV: TBS