For the first time in over a decade, the Dodgers had pitchers other than Clayton Kershaw selected to be on the hill in their first game of the season. Named the Dodgers 2022 Opening Day starter Walker Buehler, the 27-year-old right-hand man got the job done superbly and snatched a 5-3 win, in the season opener over the Rockies.
Buehler made five solid rounds on Friday afternoon at Coors Field for the win. He allowed two runs on four hits with five strikes and two walks on 78 pitches (53 strikes) versus Colorado. Given the circumstances and location, this was a really strong start for Buehler and the Dodgers.
The Dodgers started the regular season on the road repeatedly In Coorsfield. Scheduling isn’t ideal for Dodgers who start the season in Denver after a short spring. Buehler’s two-time outing at hitter-friendly Coors Field was also fitting given he made his major league debut against the Rockies in 2017.
Kershaw started opening day last year in Denver, his franchise record ninth Opening day begins. Kershaw has only missed opening day twice, both due to injury – Hyun-jin Ryu took the first turn on the heap in 2019, and Dustin May was his emergency starter in 2020. Other than those two filling moments, we’ve gotten Kershaw used to starting Dodgers in a day Opening since 2011.
The well-deserved gesture, and the first of Buehler’s career, was announced by Roberts at Camelback Farm during spring training.
Buehler earned the nickname “the ace.” He has established himself as one of the most dominant and reliable shooters in the league. He went 16-4 with a 2.47 ERA, 3.14 FIP and 0.968 WHIP on a career level 207 innings given in 2021, placing fourth in the vote for the National League Cy Young Award.
He did all that was scheduled from his beginnings (33) for the first time in his career. Buehler’s reliability was so valuable to Dodgers who mixed their spin at first. In 2021 after the season ended, Buehler started four posts, two of them coming on a three-day break.
Buehler has the luxury of learning and watching the best pitcher of this generation. Kershaw is an invaluable resource to observe and learn from, and this has helped Buehler rise to one of the top 10 shooters in baseball.
The Dodgers’ inaugural win behind Buehler was highlighted by a fourth five-game win capped by the Mookie Betts RBI double. The Dodgers scored five runs per frame, but what we’ll really remember Gavin Lux is sliding into the house.
Buehler threw 39 throws in the first and second innings, but settled down and made only 39 throws in the last three games. The four-seat speedball touched 96 mph. This sounds good considering that shooters did not have the usual time in spring training to build up their arm strength.
Buehler was the dodgers’ reliable backbone. He also seems to thrive on big-game moments as evidenced by his 2.94 Postseason Era. He started the first game of five playoff series and advanced significantly in the tiebreak against the Rockies in 2018.
Kershaw has a one-year contract, and this will likely be his last year with Los Angeles. It’s bittersweet, but it makes sense to pass the ace wand to Buehler as he enters his prime. There is no reason to believe that Buehler will not continue to improve next season.