LOS ANGELES — This would have been Clayton Kershaw’s game. Or Dustin May’s. Or, if not for a series of unfortunate events, Trevor Bauer’s.
Instead, the Dodgers will try to extend this season with a pitching plan that Manager Dave Roberts did not divulge Monday night, either because he didn’t know what this 1-0, Game 3 loss did to the original plan, or because he didn’t want to tell the San Francisco Giants that they would see Walker Buehler two nights before they were supposed to.
They probably won’t be surprised. They never are.
Buehler pitched in San Francisco on Friday night. He has not performed on three days’ rest in his career, and this season he carried 207-2/3 innings into the playoffs.
But then the Giants got the final six outs from rookie Camilo Doval, and he hadn’t done that before either.
Precedent isn’t particularly meaningful when the Dodgers, the only National League team to average five runs in 2021, have been blanked twice in the first three games of this series.
Roberts admitted to “frustration” as the Giants kept playing Whack-A-Mole with nearly every hard-hit ball. The signature play came from shortstop Brandon Crawford, who skied to snag Mookie Betts’ line drive with two on and two outs in the seventh inning.
But Donovan Solano, who came in to play second base when Tommy La Stella’s Achilles tightened up, also ranged to his left to retire AJ Pollock for the first out in the seventh.
And the winds, apparently imported from Candlestick Point in San Francisco where an infuriating old ballpark once stood, made it typical for a home run-dependent team to hit home runs.
The final hitter, Gavin Lux, watched his squared-up shot hit the wall of wind and get tracked down by Steven Duggar. Roberts thought it was gone, and Giants third baseman Evan Longoria admitted his “heart sank” when he saw the trajectory.
“Those winds were super strange for L.A.,” said Giants manager Gabe Kapler, a graduate of Taft High in Woodland Hills.
Only Longoria brought a big enough hammer to pierce the gusts and reach the seats, as he did on a straight, 0-and-2 fastball from Max Scherzer in the fifth.
Most of the day the Dodgers acted as if Tony Gonsolin, a spot starter for most of the season, would be the leader of the pitching parade in Game 4. That, of course, was before they lost Game 3. They only used Blake Treinen and Kenley Jansen for one inning apiece, and there is an off-day between Tuesday and a potential Game 5 in San Francisco.
But you’d rather have Buehler, who was second in the National League in innings, third in ERA, seventh in strikeouts and fourth in WHIP.
“I think he’s going to throw the ball pretty well,” Dodgers first baseman Albert Pujols said, even though no one had announced Buehler would be going. “I know he’s coming in on short rest, but I think he’s going to be pretty excited.”
In 2014, Vanderbilt needed Buehler to imitate a relief pitcher in a College World Series game against UC Irvine. Buehler struck out seven in 5-1/3 no-hit innings. It is not ideal, but it’s hard to believe Roberts would go into such an emergency situation and leave Buehler behind.
The Giants have Anthony DeSclafani, a well-rested starter, locked in for Game 4. He went 13-7 in 2021 with a 3.17 ERA, but he was 0-3 with a 7.33 ERA with six home runs allowed in six starts against the Dodgers. Much of that ERA is weighted by a 10-run, 2 2/3-inning outing on May 23, and he did throw six scoreless innings against them the last time he faced them.
If that doesn’t work they can lean on Logan Webb, who snake-charmed the Dodgers in Game 1, against Julio Urias in a winner-take-all Game 5 on Thursday. Urias would be pitching on his regular schedule.
Is that how it ends for a team that won 106 regular-season games? Maybe, but then the Dodgers have learned how to deal with the brink.
They needed Chris Taylor’s home run to get past the St. Louis Cardinals in the wild-card game last week. They trailed Atlanta, 3-1, in last year’s NL Championship Series and wound up winning, with Buehler excelling in his Game 6 start.
Much of this team remembers 2018 in Milwaukee, when Buehler started Game 7 and Kershaw finished it, and the Dodgers won that NLCS.
Roberts seems to think the Line Drive Gods will intervene for the Dodgers and place baseballs outside the reach of San Francisco’s defensive octopus. After Alex Wood left the game with two outs in the fifth inning, the Dodgers had a shot at three Giants relievers, sent up 16 batters who struck out only three times, and still got nothing. They ended the game with no extra-base hits.
The enormity of the night and the obvious reluctance to face the aftermath of such a sudden defeat will put a fearsome game face on every Dodger. That’s yet another reason to use a guy like Buehler. He rarely leaves home without his.