The Los Angeles Dodgers expected to take the reins off Walker Buehler this season but he reported to Spring Training still feeling the effects of an impressive rookie campaign that saw him pitch the most innings of his career by far.
The start of Buehler’s throwing program thus was delayed, and he ultimately only pitched in one Cactus League game. It was an encouraging outing, as the right-hander allowed just one run and struck out a pair over 2.2 innings.
However, the regular season saw Buehler endure some inconsistency and command troubles. While most pointed to an abbreviated spring, the 24-year-old refused to use that as an excuse.
He entered Wednesday’s game against the Cincinnati Reds with an 8.25 ERA through his first three starts. Buehler proceeded to turn in his best performance of 2019, going toe-to-toe with fellow Vanderbilt product Sonny Gray.
Buehler attributed that to ensuring his delivery was in sync, via J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group:
“I don’t know if it was so much mechanical as just trying to get my arm timed up and get my body and arm working together,” Buehler said. “That kind of makes my pitches move a little different and not what I want to do, so we worked on it – Honey (pitching coach Rick Honeycutt) and the analytics guys, and everybody really – so hats off to them for bringing that to my attention and getting it back on track.”
As Gray got through three perfect innings, Buehler nearly matched the effort with scoreless work himself. There was a walk of Joey Votto to start the game, and a two-out single in the second inning.
Buehler otherwise was locked in as he retired 12 batters in a row at one point. The string was snapped when Yasiel Puig led off the seventh inning with a base hit. By then the Dodgers held a 3-0 lead thanks to A.J. Pollock’s home run in the bottom of the sixth.
Buehler exited after allowing a single to Matt Kemp, which put runners at the corners with one out. A passed ball ultimately led to Puig scoring when Scott Alexander induced a groundout.
The unearned run was all Buehler allowed as he scattered three hits and collected eight strikeouts. The quality start was the fourth straight for the Dodgers.