The Sports Report: Walker Buehler pitches shutout, strikes out 10 as Dodgers win, 4-0
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From Jack Harris: There harmless grounders and confused swings against the curveball and slider. The cutter induced weak contact and efficiently ended at-bats. Even the changeup was key, leading to several punchouts on a career night for the Dodgers’ previously struggling ace.
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After struggling with a fastball-heavy approach in his first three starts this year, Walker Buehler used his full arsenal to earn his first career shutout in the Dodgers’ 4-0 win against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday.
The right-hander pitched nine innings of two-hit ball. He struck out a season-high 10 batters, the 13th double-digit strikeout performance of his career. And he did it all by altering his pitch mix to perfection, keeping Diamondbacks hitters off balance and out of sync with all six of his weapons.
The four-seamer was still Buehler’s most common choice, though he threw it much better than in his previous three outings, showing an uptick in average velocity 94.6 mph, a notable increase in spin rate and much more consistent command.
But the 27-year-old, who earlier in his career routinely threw his fastball more than half the time, incorporated the rest of his pitches with much more frequency, too.
While the heater accounted for 36 of his 108 pitches Monday, he also used the curveball 28 times, the cutter 25 times and the changeup, slider and sinker on a combined 19 occasions — following through on an adjustment manager Dave Roberts had been hoping to see pregame.
“I just think that he’s got to sequence more,” Roberts said. “Guys nowadays, more than ever, they’re just geared up for the fastball. So the game and the hitters tell you how you need to approach things, and if you need to change or not change.”
Buehler made the adjustment from the start.
He used the curveball to retire all three batters in the first. He picked up his first strikeout in the second on a wicked cutter to Pavin Smith, who grimaced in defeat after failing to check his swing. He got two more punchouts in the third, fanning Nick Ahmed with a late-breaking slider and getting back-to-back whiffs with the changeup against Ketel Marte.
In the fourth inning, Buehler plunked Seth Beer and then threw a wild pitch that allowed him to take second. He quickly extinguished the threat though, freezing Smith with a looping curveball.
He didn’t let another Diamondback reach base until there were two out in the ninth, a streak of 15 consecutive outs that brought the Dodgers’ vocal contingent of visiting fans to life.
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From Sam Farmer: Call them the Idle Eight. One-quarter of the NFL’s 32 teams will be spectators Thursday when the league stages the opening round of its annual draft, the first in Las Vegas.
Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Miami, San Francisco and the Rams will be watching from the sidelines, assuming they don’t try to trade back into the round.
Six of those traded their first-round picks to acquire quarterbacks, including the Rams, who haven’t selected in the opening round since 2016, when they packaged picks to move up to take Jared Goff first overall.
The Rams in particular have reaped the benefits of trading picks for proven talent, winning the Super Bowl with seasoned acquisition Matthew Stafford at the helm.
Not surprisingly, in the copycat NFL, the Rams will have a lot of fellow teams auditing this opening round.
A look at this year’s teams without a first-round pick:
Why no first-round pick? The Bears traded that pick last year to move up for quarterback Justin Fields.
When was the last time they didn’t have a first-round pick? They didn’t have a first-rounder last year, either, but picked up solid tight end Cole Kmet in the second.
Their first pick this year? The Bears select 39th, in the second round.
Notable players selected 39th? Green Bay took guard Jerry Kramer there in 1958, Buffalo grabbed linebacker Darryl Talley 39th in 1983 and Pittsburgh took Kendrell Bell in 2001. More recently, that’s where the New York Jets took Geno Smith in 2013 and the Bears took tackle Teven Jenkins last year.
Click here for the rest of the story.
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From Mike DiGiovanna: Shohei Ohtani stepped into the batter’s box on Sunday with red-striped socks going up to his knees, a new look that all but advertised the Angels two-way star’s desire to shake a season-long funk at the plate.
Ohtani reverted to his usual long pants for Monday night’s game against the Cleveland Guardians, but he had a new lineup spot, manager Joe Maddon dropping the slugger from leadoff to second and moving Taylor Ward to the top of the order.
Maddon said the move was “all Taylor Ward-driven,” a nod to the outfielder’s .528 on-base percentage and 10 walks in his first eight games, and the switch paid immediate dividends in a 3-0 victory before a crowd of 23,099 in Angel Stadium.
Ward hit a solo homer in the fifth inning and a two-run shot in the seventh off 2020 American League Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber, his first career multiple-homer game backing the stout pitching of Michael Lorenzen, who gave up three hits over six shutout innings, striking out three and walking four.
The Angels also hope the move to what seems like a more suitable lineup spot will provide a spark for Ohtani, the reigning American League most valuable player who is searching to regain his consistent power stroke.
Ohtani was hitless and struck out twice in four at-bats Monday night and is now batting .211 with a .653 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, three homers and nine RBIs in 17 games, a far cry from the lethal hitter who batted .257 with a .965 OPS, 46 homers and 100 RBIs in 2021.
“I mean, it’s so early, we’re talking  at-bats,” Angels hitting coach Jeremy Reed said before the game. “I think if you put these  at-bats in the middle of the year, in June or July, people will kind of go, ‘OK, he’s going through a little rut.’ It just gets magnified when it’s April, and the start isn’t the way you want it, because there’s an MVP on his name now.”
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THIS DATE IN SPORTS
1905 — Jack McCarthy of the Cubs became the only outfielder in major league history to throw out three runners at the plate, each of whom became the second out of a double play. The victims were the Pittsburgh Pirates in a 2-1 loss.
1950 — The University of Miami ends the longest winning streak in collegiate tennis by defeating William & Mary 8-1. William & Mary, unbeaten in five years, had won 82 consecutive meets.
1964 — The Boston Celtics capture their sixth consecutive NBA title with a 105-99 victory over the San Francisco Warriors in Game 5 of the finals.
1995 — The Colorado Rockies post an 11-9 victory over the New York Mets in 14 innings, tying the NL record for innings played in a season opener.
2002 — Odalis Perez of the Dodgers faces the minimum 27 batters in his first career shutout. Perez was perfect for six innings in a 10-0 win over the Cubs at Chicago’s Wrigley Field.
2009 — French swimmer Frederick Bousquet sets a world record in the 50-meter freestyle, becoming the first person to break the 21-second barrier. Bousquet breaks the record at the French championships finishing in 20.94 seconds.
2012 — Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck is selected first overall in the NFL draft by the Indianapolis Colts, followed by Baylor QB Robert Griffin III, who is taken by the Washington Redskins.
2012 — The Charlotte Bobcats finish with the worst winning percentage in NBA history after a 104-84 loss to the New York Knicks. The Bobcats’ 23rd consecutive loss leaves them with a winning percentage of .106 (7-59) in the lockout-shortened season. The record was set 39 years ago, when the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers finished 9-73 (.110) in a full regular season.
2014 — Wladimir Klitschko toys with Alex Leapai and knocks him out in the fifth round to retain his four heavyweight belts in Oberhausen, Germany.
Compiled by the Associated Press
The Lakers defeat the Celtics to win the NBA title in 1985. Watch and listen here.
Until next time...
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