Walker Buehler is nearly flawless and Dodgers rally to defeat Diamondbacks
In about a month, barring injury, the Dodgers will give the ball to Walker Buehler to survive another day or close out a three-game playoff series. They will seek the brilliance he has already displayed on the biggest stages in his young big league career, from division title tiebreaker to Game 3 of the 2018 World Series. They will look for something like Wednesday.
In his first start since a blister on his right hand forced a visit to the injured list, Buehler was nearly flawless in five scoreless innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Zac Gallen, a nascent ace himself, was even better, but the Dodgers managed to muster enough offense late again for a 3-2 win in 10 innings.
Mookie Betts lined Gallen’s first pitch for a single, but the Dodgers didn’t produce another hit over Gallen’s final 96 pitches. He walked two and struck out seven. He pitched into the seventh inning before he was removed when he issued a leadoff walk to Joc Pederson. The right-hander has given up two or fewer runs and logged at least six innings in his seven starts this season. His earned-run average plunged to 1.80.
Stefan Crichton relieved Gallen and got Will Smith to hit into a 5-4-3 double play. Edwin Ríos then lined out to left field to end the inning. But Betts came through for the Dodgers again in the ninth, clubbing a solo home run off Kevin Ginkel with one out to tie the score. It was Betts’ 12th homer this season. It was enough to keep the score tied for one inning.
The Diamondbacks (14-23) manufactured the go-ahead run off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen in the 10th inning without a hit. With Daulton Varsho at second base to start the inning as Arizona’s designated runner, Jansen walked a batter, hit another and issued a bases-loaded walk to Christian Walker to surrender a run.
The Dodgers (28-10) tied it in the bottom of the inning thanks to a disastrous defensive sequence. Chris Taylor led off by dropping a sacrifice bunt to move Max Muncy, the designated runner, to third base. The bunt trickled to pitcher Junior Guerra’s right. Guerra charged it, slipped, and threw the ball to third from his knees. It bounced past the third baseman and Muncy scored.
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Two batters later, Smith smacked a walk-off single over the drawn-in left fielder’s head to drive in Taylor, end the game, and continue the Dodgers’ dominance late in games. They’ve now outscored opponents 70-29 after the sixth inning this season.
Buehler, meanwhile, limited the Diamondbacks to two hits. He had six strikeouts and one walk. He said his breaking pitches weren’t sharp, but he didn’t show any signs of blister trouble. His fastball averaged 96.9 mph and touched 98. He generated eight whiffs on 28 swings and 17 called strikes. But the Dodgers played it safe, pulling him from his first start in 12 days after just 71 pitches.
After the game, manager Dave Roberts said he expects Buehler to make his next start on regular rest Monday.
“I’ve been a lot more upset before coming out of a game,” Buehler said. “I think coming off the IL, 75 pitches, roughly, kind of deal, I don’t know if I’ll necessarily be on a pitch count.”
After a slow start to the season, Buehler has given up one run and six hits with 17 strikeouts and one walk across 11 innings in his last two outings. His ERA has dropped from 5.21 to 3.60 with the two performances.
Caleb Ferguson replaced Buehler in the sixth inning and surrendered the game’s first run. Walker, the second batter he faced, lifted a solo home run over the left-field wall. It was the second earned run Ferguson has yielded in 16 appearances this season.
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The Dodgers didn’t have Cody Bellinger available for the second straight game. The reigning NL MVP suffered an injury in his right lat area before Tuesday’s game. Roberts said Bellinger felt better taking swings in the cage Wednesday. “The hope” is Bellinger returns Thursday for the series finale.
“He felt he could’ve played,” Roberts said. “But, again, just talking to the trainer, Cody himself, just makes sense to just give him one more day.”
They could’ve used Bellinger on Wednesday. Those days will surface even for the league’s most prolific offense when it’s missing hitters like Bellinger and Justin Turner. But come next month, they can’t afford not to support their budding ace.
Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen was named the National League reliever of the month for August. The right-hander posted a 1.54 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 112/3 innings across 13 appearances. He recorded eight saves in nine attempts. He began September by recording the final out in Monday’s win over the Diamondbacks for his league-leading 10th save of the season.
Relievers close to return
Roberts said relievers Pedro Báez and Joe Kelly are on similar tracks to come off the 10-day injured list. Both right-handers threw a bullpen session Tuesday at Dodger Stadium. Báez, out with a groin strain, is scheduled to throw another one Thursday, according to Roberts. Kelly is expected to throw his next bullpen session this weekend. Kelly has been on the IL with a shoulder inflammation since Aug. 10.
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