Buehler pitched the Dodgers into the NLDS with a masterful performance in Monday’s tiebreaker game against the Rockies, spinning 6 2/3 shutout innings as Los Angeles emerged victorious 5-2. The rookie right-hander carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning and finished the day having allowed just a Charlie Blackmon single. He walked three, hit a batter and fanned three and even added an RBI single at the plate (his first career RBI).
Buehler didn’t make his season debut for the Dodgers until late April and wasn’t a fixture in their rotation until May, but he’s not only been their best pitcher down the stretch, he’s been one of the best pitchers in the game. In his final 12 regular season outings, Buehler posted a microscopic 1.55 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and 87/23 K/BB ratio across 75 1/3 innings. He gave up more than two runs in just one of those starts, and that came at Coors Field.
The Dodgers got a pair of two-run home runs off of German Marquez, as Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy both took the righty deep. Bellinger’s bomb came in the bottom of the fourth inning after Marquez had struck out the first three batters of the frame, as he only got to bat because of a dropped third strike by catcher Tony Wolters (Marquez wound up fanning four in the inning).
It wasn’t all good for the Dodgers, as Kenley Jansen served up back-to-back solo home runs to Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story in the ninth inning before rebounding to close things out. He gave up over twice as many longballs this season (13) than he had in any other previous campaign.
Jansen has been his old dominant self at times this season, including in September after he returned from his heart issue, but he’s had many more slip-ups than we’re used to and needs to get locked back in when the Dodgers host the Braves in Game 1 of the NLDS on Thursday. That said, the Dodgers still managed to take their sixth straight NL West title in spite of an up-and-down season that saw them nine games out of first place at one point. They’ll give Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu the ball in NLDS Games 1 and 2, respectively. Buehler is in line for Game 3 and Rich Hill is set up for a possible Game 4.
As for the Rockies, they hopped on a plane headed to Chicago after Monday’s setback and are set to take on the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Tuesday in the National League Wild Card Game. It will be Kyle Freeland versus Jon Lester and the winner will go up against the Brewers in the NLDS.
Milwaukee Moves On
Entering Monday, the Brewers hadn’t had sole possession of first place in the National League Central since prior to the All-Star break. It took a Game 163, but they’re now back atop the division.
Behind a strong start by Jhoulys Chacin and their usual lockdown bullpen work, the Brewers topped the Cubs 3-1 at Wrigley Field on Monday to break the tie and capture the NL Central crown. Chacin permitted just one hit – an Anthony Rizzo home run – over his 5 2/3 innings while walking two and striking out three. Joakim Soria, Corey Knebel and Josh Hader recorded the final 10 outs, with Hader dominating over the final two frames to notch the save.
While they managed just three runs on the day, the Brewers collected 12 hits off of Jose Quintana and the Cubs’ bullpen. Three of those base knocks came from Christian Yelich (who else?), who drove in the first run of the game with a single to notch his 110th RBI. Lorenzo Cain broke the tie with an RBI single in the eighth and Ryan Braun tacked on an additional run that frame with another RBI single. The Brew Crew also got a 4-for-4 game out of the light-hitting Orlando Arcia.
(As an aside, Yelich fell two home runs and one RBI shy of his pursuit of the Triple Crown, but he easily paced the NL with his .326 average. Yep, he’s going to win NL MVP.)
The Cubs got a mammoth solo shot by Rizzo to lead off the bottom of the fifth and put two on in the sixth with two outs when the game was still tied, but Soria got Javier Baez to strike out to end that threat. A Baez single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth put Rizzo in the box as the tying run, but he flew out and the Brewers celebrated.
With the victory, the Brewers gain homefield advantage throughout the NL side of the playoff bracket. They will host the winner of Tuesday’s NL Wild Card Game between the Rockies and Cubs in Game 1 of the NLDS on Thursday. The Cubs, as mentioned above, will turn to Jon Lester on Tuesday, and the Rockies will counter with Kyle Freeland, who will be taking the ball on short rest.
Quick Hits: Shohei Ohtani underwent Tommy John surgery on Monday. The hope remains that he can be a full-time designated hitter for the Angels in 2019 before returning to pitching (and part-time DHing) in 2020 … Dansby Swanson (hand) is not expected to be on the Braves' NLDS roster. Charlie Culberson is in line to fill in for him at shortstop … Jeremy Jeffress was unavailable to pitch for the Brewers on Monday for undisclosed reasons, but he expected to be available for the NLDS … Salvador Perez will undergo ligament surgery on his left thumb on Tuesday. His rehab is not expected to affect his offseason conditioning … Cardinals general manager Michael Girsch said that the club has had "general conversations" about impending free agent Adam Wainwright possibly returning in 2019 … Joe Mauer said after Sunday's season finale that he hasn't decided whether he's ready to retire … Hunter Pence said after Sunday's season finale that he's not planning on retiring …