Nationals @ Dodgers NLDS Game 5: Strasburg vs. Buehler for an NLCS berth

Photo: Stacie Wheeler

It’s all hands on deck in this Game 5 tonight for the Dodgers. Well, maybe everyone except Rich Hill. But really, it shouldn’t be. This game should be in one pitcher’s hands: Walker Buehler.

 
Nationals
   
Dodgers
 
5:37 p.m.
   
Los Angeles
SS
Turner  
RF
Pederson
RF
Eaton  
2B
Muncy
3B
Rendon  
3B
Turner
LF
Soto  
CF
Bellinger
2B
Kendrick  
1B
Beaty
1B
Zimmerman  
SS
Seager
C
Suzuki   LF Hernandez
CF
Taylor  
C
Smith
P
Strasburg (R)  
P
Buehler (R)

Buehler is starting this win-or-go-home contest for the Dodgers, just as they set up when they gave the 25-year-old the ball in Game 1.

After a bit of a rough start to his playoff career, Buehler has gotten better and better. In his last four postseason starts, Buehler has a 1.82 ERA, .176 opponents batting average and a 28.9 K-BB% (30 strikeouts, four walks). He is exactly the kind of postseason performer the Dodgers need.

He will look to extend the Dodgers’ historic season. But that doesn’t mean it’s all on his shoulders.

If he falters at some point or doesn’t have it, of course Dave Roberts won’t hesitate to go to the bullpen. But if Buehler pitches to his potential, he won’t have to (early, at least). And Roberts has already said he’s going to “ride” Buehler hard tonight.

What would help a ton is if the Dodgers could, somehow, figure out Stephen Strasburg. In 28 career postseason innings, Strasburg has allowed five runs (two earned). He has been a beast in the in October, and is coming off a 10-strikeout performance against LA in Game 2 of this series. Like the Dodgers, all hands will be on deck for the Nationals — perhaps excluding Max Scherzer after his gutty 7-inning performance on Monday night.

David Freese is absent from the lineup because Roberts wants a chance to use him in the later innings/a higher-leverage situation against either Sean Dootlittle or Patrick Corbin. That’s why Matt Beaty is batting fifth in between Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager.

Enrique Hernandez draws his first start of the season, as he’ll man left field. Gavin Lux heads to the bench while Max Muncy slides over to second base (and Beaty to first base instead of left field). It’s such a luxury for the Dodgers to have so many guys they can mix and match at almost every position.

The Nationals are hoping the boost of Ryan Zimmerman‘s Game 4 home run will carry over into a Game 5 situation. And aside from Michael Taylor being in center field for Victor Robles  — who is out because of a mild hamstring strain (#TrueDodger?) — the Nats’ 1-5 spots in the lineup are the same as they’ve been all series.

——

This should be about as incredible a Game 5 can be, and that’s saying something after the 2016 NLDS. At stake for the Dodgers, a fourth consecutive NLCS berth as the heavy favorite in the NL. For the Nats, their first trip to the LCS since 1981, when they were still the Montreal Expos.

Let’s hope Buehler brings his “A” game and the offense can at least be passing. Don’t be on the wrong side of history, Dodgers.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.