ATLANTA -- Walker Buehler will start Game 6 of the National League Championship Series in place of Max Scherzer on Saturday night, prompting Buehler to pitch on short rest for the second time this postseason and giving Scherzer an extra day to get closer to full strength.
The Los Angeles Dodgers officially scratched Scherzer from his start against the Atlanta Braves on Saturday, six days after he said his arm felt unusually tired in NLCS Game 2. The Dodgers are hoping that Scherzer, 37, can bounce back to start Game 7 on Sunday if they can keep their season alive from Truist Park in Atlanta, a source told ESPN. The Braves, who will start right-hander Ian Anderson in Game 6, hold a 3-2 lead in this series; the winner advances to play the Houston Astros in the World Series, which begins Tuesday.
Buehler started on only three days rest for the first time in his career when the Dodgers were facing elimination against the San Francisco Giants in Game 4 of the NL Division Series and allowed one run in 4⅓ innings. He then took the ball with six days rest in NLCS Game 3 on Tuesday -- four days rest is standard for starting pitchers -- and he struggled, allowing nine baserunners and recording only 11 outs. Buehler, 27, later firmly dismissed concerns that his unconventional pitching schedule played a factor.
Scherzer, who will be a free agent after the season, pitched the ninth inning in NLDS Game 5, closing out the Giants and sending the Dodgers into this round, then was pushed back to NLCS Game 2 for more rest. After that Sunday start, he said that his arm was "dead."
"I could tell when I was warming up that it was still tired," Scherzer said after allowing only a two-run homer but being removed in the fifth inning on Sunday.
"Usually in those situations, kind of once you get past pitch 45, sometimes it kind of loosens up and you're able to get deeper into a game. But after the third inning, it didn't loosen up. It was still more tightening up."
The Dodgers have already lost third baseman Justin Turner (hamstring) and late-inning reliever Joe Kelly (biceps) in this series. They are also without first baseman Max Muncy (elbow) and longtime ace Clayton Kershaw (forearm), both of whom suffered injuries during the final weekend of the regular season. The Dodgers entered the postseason with a three-man starting rotation consisting of Scherzer, Buehler and Julio Urias, the latter of whom struggled in his Game 4 start on Wednesday -- his third appearance in a span of six days.
Starting anyone outside of Buehler on Saturday would have morphed Game 6 into a bullpen game, made more difficult by the fact that the Dodgers also staged a bullpen game in Thursday's Game 5. The Dodgers officially replaced Kelly with former Cy Young Award winner David Price on the NLCS roster Saturday, but Price hasn't appeared in a game since Oct. 2 and hasn't completed more than two innings since the end of August. The Dodgers also have young starting pitcher Tony Gonsolin, who has allowed five runs in four innings over the course of three appearances in this series and also is not stretched out.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said after a Game 5 win Thursday night that Scherzer would take the ball in Game 6. But Roberts didn't sound wholly confident when asked expectations for Scherzer given the fatigue he displayed in his prior start, saying: "I don't know until we get there. I really don't. He's doing his work and preparing. ... Whatever he can give us. We're going to have guys around him to help us win a ballgame."
The Dodgers have won seven consecutive elimination games, representing the third-longest streak in postseason history.