Aside from Game 5 marking the culmination of an excellent series, this could turn out to be one of the best pitching matchups of the entire season.
The Dodgers will send 25-year-old Walker Buehler to the mound, while the Nats are handing the ball to Stephen Strasburg.
Both Buehler and Strasburg were two of the most dominant starters in all of baseball this season, but it is their postseason pedigrees–not to mention the stakes–that makes this winner-take-all one of the most exciting contests of the season.
Nothing but dominance
Buehler helped the Dodgers take the opener of the series. He outdueled Nationals left-hander Patrick Corbin, throwing six scoreless innings and giving up just one hit while striking out eight.
Meanwhile, Strasburg shut down the Dodgers in Game 2. The former No. 1 overall pick scattered three hits across six innings and struck out 10, keeping the Dodger lineup off balance all night.
The outcomes of the first two games showcased just how good the two aces have been this season. Strasburg led the NL in wins (18) and ranked seventh in the majors in fWAR (5.7), while Buehler ranked 11th in fWAR and fifth in FIP (3.01).
Though Buehler and Strasburg have sometimes been overshadowed during the course of the regular season, they have arguably been as consistent and dependable as any of the starters in their respective rotations.
Although both starters can throw their fastball in the upper 90s, they have success in very different ways.
Buehler locates his fastball in every quadrant of the zone and loves to climb the ladder against opposing hitters. He uses the four-seamer to change eye levels and set up a hard-biting slider that consistently generated the best results in terms of opponents batting average (OBA) and average exit velocity. Buehler can also mix in a more vertical curveball to deceive left-handed hitters.
Meanwhile, Strasburg can move the ball in just about every direction. In Game 2, he showcased just how lethal he could be with his changeup.
Strasburg can dot his off-speed pitches on the outer half, and the change in particular is utterly dominant. Opponents hit just .140 with a .190 wOBA against Strasburg’s changeup this year, and he generates an absurd 44.2 whiff percentage with that pitch, according to MLB Statcast. Like Buehler, Strasburg can also pepper his curveball to righties and lefties.
The most exciting aspect of this matchup is that both Buehler and Strasburg have been practically untouchable in big games.
Buehler made his postseason debut with the Dodgers last year in his first full season in the bigs. Though he struggled in the NLDS, he strung together a series of good performances in the NLCS and the World Series. With the Dodgers trailing 0-2 during the Fall Classic, Buehler tossed seven shutout innings in a pivotal Game 3, which the Dodgers would go on to win in extra innings.
Meanwhile, Strasburg boasts as good a postseason resume as any other pitcher in the league. The 31-year-old has given up all of two runs in 28 innings throughout his postseason career.
When the Nationals trailed the Chicago Cubs 1-2 during the 2017 NLDS, Strasburg tossed seven scoreless innings and struck out 12 to help even the series. The Nationals were on the ropes during this year’s NL Wild Card Game, but Strasburg threw three scoreless innings out of the bullpen to keep the Nats within striking distance of the Milwaukee Brewers, which would prove vital during an eighth-inning rally. Then of course, he dominated Game 2 of this NLDS to send the series to Washington on level terms.
For baseball fans, there might be nothing more entertaining than two aces going at it with their seasons on the line. That is exactly what we get on Wednesday night, with Buehler and Strasburg ready to do battle.