McCoy: Buehler’s gem lifts Dodgers to Game 3 win

LA up 2-1 over Rays in World Series

Walker Buehler didn’t take the day off. He seldom does when he goes to work atop a pitching mound for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

And on Friday night in Game 3 of the World Series, he was at this best in a 6-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

During a pre-game interview, the Lexington, Ky. native said he grew up a Cincinnati Reds fan and admired Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo and Johnny Cueto.

Then he pitched as good as any of that Reds trio ever pitched — six innings, one run, three hits, one walk and 10 strikeouts, to give the Dodgers a two games to one lead.

The Reds had an opportunity to draft Buehler out of Vanderbilt University in 2015, but the Reds, who had the 11th pick in the first round, chose catcher Tyler Stephenson. The Dodgers had the 24th pick and chose Buehler.

Buehler is fast becoming, if he isn’t already there, Mr. Postseason. In nine appearances over his career he has given up only seven runs.

“Yes, the playoffs are different, by at the end of the day it is the same game,” Buehler said on the Fox postgame show. "I feel I’ve failed in some of these momets and I’ve taken the failures I’ve had and tried to learn from them a little bit.

“Our team gave me an early cushion so I could be aggressive,” he added. He was so aggressive he threw 59 fastballs and the Rays put only five in play. “There is a comfort level with our catchers, Austin Barnes out there tonight. They put me in a good spot to execute.”

So is Buehler No. 1 on the Dodgers staff, or is it Clayton Kershaw? Buehler laughed and said, “We have one of he best ever (Kershaw) in that clubhouse. Until he’s here, I’m No 2, and that’s fine.”

The Dodgers gave Buehler heavy early support by scoring five runs in the first four innings, three driven in by third baseman Justin Turner.

Tampa Bay starter Charlie Morton entered the game with a 3-0 record in three postseason starts with a 0.57 earned run average. And it was Morton, wearing a Houston Astros uniform, who retired the last 11 Dodgers in Game 7 of the 2017 World Series.

But on Friday, the Dodgers jumped on him quickly — especially former Reds farmhand Turner. The LA third baseman hit a two-out home run in the first and a two-out, two-run single in the third to make it 3-0.

At that point, the Dodgers had scored 48 runs with two outs during this postseason.

Turner slapped some leather work on the Rays, too. With one out in the third, the Rays put their first runner on base, a walk to Kevin Kiermaier. Mike Zunino shot one to third and Turner made an above-and-beyond stop and started a 5-4-3 inning-ending double play.

The Dodgers then went oldschool in the fourth. With one out and runners on first and third, Austin Barnes dropped a perfect safety squeeze bunt up the first-base line for a run. Then came another two-out, run-producing hit, this one a single by Mookie Betts to make it 5-0.

Tampa Bay didn’t bave a hit off Buehler until Manuel Margot doubled with one out in the fifth. He scored on a double by Willy Adames to put the Rays on the board, but still down by four, 5-1.

After driving in a run with a 30-foot bunt, No. 9 hitter Barnes drove in another on his next at bat, a two-out 425-foot home run. It was LA’s 25th postseason home run this year and the 50th run scored with two outs.

LA manager Dave Roberts decided to give closer Kenley Jansen some work in the ninth. He retired the first two and had Randy Arozarena 3-and-2. Arozarena drove one down the left-field line for a home run, his eighth of the playoffs, tying the all-time record.

But that was the end of it for the Rays.

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