The Dodgers and Dave Roberts let the Rays back into the World Series with a lackluster pitching plan. They need Walker Buehler badly.
Heed these words, Dodgers fans: Way back in the olden days, about two weeks ago, the New York Yankees took the very same 1-0 lead over the Tampa Bay Rays which you possessed heading into Game 2. It was a punishing Game 1 win replete with a ninth-inning grand slam. A real momentum grabber.
Those Yankees chose to get cute in their follow-up game with a little pitching mix ’em up, starting Deivi Garcia for exactly one inning before pulling him in favor of JA Happ, who got blasted by a Rays lineup that didn’t fall for the deke.
Whether the Dodgers did the same thing nursing a lead in Game 2 by necessity or desire, the end result was the same. The Rays walked out of the building confident, and LA’s depleted pitching corps departed needing a great and powerful Game 3 start from Walker Buehler on Friday.
Of course, there are signs pointing towards the Dodgers having managed this properly, but to see them, you must admit that they knew full well they were conceding Game 2.
Sure, they battled back. But you don’t have to dig out of a hole if you have a horse on the mound who won’t create one in the first place.
Now, with the momentum either evened up or favoring Tampa, the Dodgers are banking on an over-rested Buehler (five full days) emerging just as energized in this pivotal contest as he did with the NLCS on the line against Atlanta in Game 6. The bases loaded, no out jam he worked out of in that game embodied exactly what he can bring at his peak. If that version of Buehler doesn’t show up on Friday, the methodology behind a partially-rested bullpen game on Wednesday could quickly unravel.
The Yankees, when they failed, were banking on Playoff Tanaka in Game 3; he never arrived.
If the Dodgers don’t get the very best of Buehler, they may be left wondering why they squandered their early-series window with an experimental Game 2 loss, still resting on their laurels.
It feels as if Dave Roberts set his rotation, after putting it under duress in the NLCS, in an effort to properly set himself up for Game 7. But if you win a majority of the first six games, you never have to get there. We can’t guarantee the Dodgers would have a two-game advantage if they hadn’t tinkered with Tony Gonsolin last week and turned him into a short reliever, but however we arrived at this moment, the onus is now on Buehler to arrive at his very best.