Kershaw? Nope. Ryu? Nope. Walker Buehler to start Game 1 for the Dodgers

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The Los Angeles Dodgers have the greatest pitcher of the past decade in their rotation. They also have a strong candidate for the 2019 Cy Young Award. But yesterday manager Dave Roberts announced that Walker Buehler will get the Game 1 start in the NLDS against the Washington Nationals. The game gets underway tonight at around 8:30 Eastern time.

Buehler went 14-4 with a 3.26 ERA in 182.1 innings this season, striking out 215 batters and walking 37. By ERA+ he was third on the team behind Hyun-Jin Ryu and Clayton Kershaw. Fourth if you count Rich Hill‘s abbreviated season (which you probably shouldn’t). He certainly has fewer postseason innings under his belt. He also struggled a bit in September. So why is Roberts tabbing Buehler over his two more experienced starters? Roberts:

“We just felt that with Walker getting an opportunity to pitch the first game, also potentially a Game 5, gives us the best chance to win regardless of opponent.”

Kind of broad, I suppose. Maybe it means Roberts would be better pitching twice in the potential five-game series if he has the extra day of rest that would occur between today and next Wednesday’s Game 5. Maybe it’s a matchup thing, with Roberts preferring to match up the guy who, normally anyway, would be considered the Dodgers’ third starter against the Nationals’ third starter, Patrick Corbin, who has to go tonight since both Max Scherzer and Steven Strasburg were used in the Wild Card game. Maybe, as Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times wrote last night, it’s a changing of the guard kind of moment and, in reality, the Dodgers simply have more confidence to cast Buehler as their ace now than Kershaw or Ryu.

Buehler’s comment on it all — he says specific order of the rotation is not all that significant — has a great deal of truth going for it. In the end, all three of the Dodgers’ top three-starters, and Rich Hill when he goes, will have to pitch well for the club to advance to its goal of a third straight trip to the World Series. But it’s also gonna be really weird seeing the Dodgers not use a fully-rested Clayton Kershaw to start a postseason series.

Orioles sign OF Aaron Hicks, put Cedric Mullins on 10-day IL with groin strain

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BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Orioles signed outfielder Aaron Hicks less than 24 hours after Cedric Mullins went down with a strained right groin.

Mullins went on the 10-day injured list, but the Orioles are hoping Hicks can help defensively in the spacious outfield at Camden Yards. Hicks was released last week by the New York Yankees with more than 2 1/2 seasons left on his contract.

“We had noticed that he was a free agent even before the injury,” Orioles general manager Mike Elias said. “When the injury occurred and it became pretty clear this was going to be an IL, it seemed like a good fit even more so at that time.”

The Orioles are responsible for paying Hicks just $483,871, a prorated share of the $720,000 minimum salary. The Yankees owe him the rest of his $10.5 million salary this year, plus $9.5 million in each of the next two seasons and a $1 million buyout of a 2026 team option.

The 33-year-old Hicks hit just .188 in 28 games for the Yankees this year.

“We have stuff that we look at from a scouting and evaluation perspective,” Elias said. “It’s very different from just looking at the back of a baseball card, and we hope that we get a bounceback from anyone we bring here.”

Hicks batted .216 last season.

“Hopefully that’s a good thing for him,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of the Baltimore deal. “A lot of time here and a lot of good things happened for him here. I know the last couple of years have been a struggle. But hopefully it’s a good opportunity for him and certainly wish him well. Not too well being in our division and a team we’re chasing, but hopefully it’s a really good fit for him.”

Mullins left a loss to Cleveland after he pulled up while running out an infield grounder. Outfielder Colton Cowser – the fifth pick in the draft two years ago – is hitting .331 at Triple-A Norfolk, but he went on the IL in the past couple weeks.

“Certainly he was building a case towards promotion consideration prior to his injury and prior to Cedric’s injury,” Elias said. “We’ll just see where we’re at.”

Hicks was active for the game but not in the starting lineup. Austin Hays, normally Baltimore’s left field, was in Mullins’ usual spot in center.

When the wall in left at Camden Yards was pushed significantly back before last season, it made left field a bigger challenge defensively.

“In this park … you really need two center fielders,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Aaron’s got a lot of center-field experience. Played left field here before also. Brings the defensive aspect and then the switch-hitting.”