Los Angeles Times

Not forgotten in marathon is Buehler’s beaut

- DYLAN HERNANDEZ dylan.hernandez@latimes.com Twitter: @dylanohern­andez

Plenty happened as the Dodgers and Boston Red Sox played late into Friday night, from Kenley Jansen blowing a one-run lead in the eighth inning to the visitors scoring on an error by Scott Alexander in the 13th to leveling the score in the bottom half of the inning.

None of that should take away from what Walker Buehler did earlier in the night.

In the first World Series game of his career, Buehler affirmed he is becoming everything the Dodgers have envisioned, a franchise cornerston­e who performs like a front-line starter in October as well as in the regular season.

Buehler was Kobe Bryant in a Dodgers cap. He was Orel Hershiser with a 100-mph fastball. He was the postseason hero the city of Los Angeles failed to wish into existence over the franchise’s five previous years.

So stop looking for the pitcher who will replace Clayton Kershaw as the ace of the Dodgers. Buehler is bound to inherit the crown, if he hasn’t already.

Buehler was that spectacula­r, that dominant, in Game 3. He blanked the highest-scoring team in the major leagues over seven innings. He allowed only two hits. He didn’t walk anyone. He struck out seven.

He willed this performanc­e when it was absolutely necessary, as the Dodgers entered the game trailing the World Series two games to none. And he did this when nothing less was acceptable, as his team’s slumping offense managed to score only once over the first 12 innings.

And if this series extends to seven games, Buehler likely will be the pitcher scaling the mound for the Dodgers.

The team’s best pitcher will be pitching the most important game. Perfect. Buehler’s start in Game 3 was all the more impressive because of how unimpressi­vely it started.

Buehler pitched a 1-2-3 first inning, but was required to throw 26 pitches.

The Red Sox’s plan was clear. The visitors wanted Buehler’s pitch count to escalate quickly, which would ensure the righthande­r’s early removal.

Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Mitch Moreland fouled off a combined 11 pitches in that first inning. They collective­ly forced Buehler to throw 17 pitches in two-strike counts.

But the Red Sox couldn’t sustain that. Buehler wouldn’t let them.

Jackie Bradley Jr. led off the third inning with a single, but Buehler promptly picked him off as he attempted to steal second base. Christian Vazquez followed with another single and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by pitcher Rick Porcello, but Buehler eradicated the threat by forcing Betts to fly out to center field.

Buehler didn’t permit another Red Sox player to reach base. He retired the last 14 batters he faced.

His night ended when Matt Kemp batted for him in the seventh inning with two outs and Yasiel Puig on first base.

This was the third time this month the Dodgers handed the baseball to the 24-year-old Buehler in a must-win situation.

They had him pitch in Game 163 of the regular season, a one-game tiebreaker against the Colorado Rockies that would decide whether the Dodgers were the National League West champions or a wild card. Buehler responded by pitching 62⁄3 scoreless innings in a 5-2 victory. The Dodgers went directly to an NL division series. The Rockies had to take on the Chicago Cubs in the wildcard game.

Buehler also was called on to pitch in Game 7 of the NL Championsh­ip Series against the Milwaukee Brewers. He lasted only 4 2 ⁄3 innings but limited the damage to one run. The Dodgers won the game and the series.

The triumph in Game 7 had value beyond advancing the Dodgers to the World Series. The team’s future No. 1 starter had an opportunit­y to pitch in a winner-take-all game. So did the pitcher who is expected to be his left-handed complement.

That was Julio Urias, the 22-year-old left-hander who returned from a major shoulder operation to earn a place on the postseason roster. The pitcher of record in a victory in Game 4 of that series, Urias was the reliever who replaced Buehler in the fifth inning of Game 7.

With a runner on second base, Urias gave up a line drive to Christian Yelich that was caught at the warning track by left fielder Chris Taylor for the third out.

The future came sooner than expected for the Dodgers. Buehler’s performanc­e Friday night confirmed that.

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