Similar to Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill, Walker Buehler battled some stretches of inconsistency through the early stages of the 2019 season. A commonality between the three pitchers was none of them had a typical build up during Spring Training.
Clayton Kershaw was shut down early into camp because of left shoulder trouble, Hill suffered an MCL sprain one week before Opening Day, and Buehler was slow-played due to last season’s workload and not quite feeling 100% upon reporting to Camelback Ranch.
Despite that, and unlike Kershaw and Hill, Buehler did not begin the season on the 10-day injured list. Buehler allowed five runs in two of his first three starts, then began to find a rhythm and more recently has met expectations after a top-three finish in National League Rookie of the Year voting.
His latest gem came against the Chicago Cubs, though an Anthony Rizzo game-winning home run off Kenley Jansen meant a no-decision for Buehler. He felt success against the Cubs came despite deviating from a combination that proved effective of late, as seen on SportsNet LA:
“Cutter-slider has kind of what’s been going for me the past couple weeks. Didn’t really have that one the way I wanted tonight, so I was able to land the breaking ball and throw a couple good ones down.”
Buehler didn’t allow a baserunner until Kris Bryant reached on Kiké Hernandez’s throwing error with one out in the fourth inning. The Cubs were without a hit until Addison Russell’s one-out single in the sixth.
Despite signs of it potentially being a historic night, Buehler said he personally never sensed a no-hitter was within grasp:
“You know, it’s hard to tell. Again, we talked about it in Arizona and the last time I pitched against the [Cubs], I think I got through the first couple innings pretty clean. It’s a good team. I’m not going… I never really had the feeling today.”
While Buehler got through five scoreless innings during his April 24 start at Wrigley Field, he allowed a one-out base hit to Kris Bryant in the first inning. Buehler wound up surrendering a game-tying three-run homer to Javier Baez in the sixth and was removed at that point.
Against the Diamondbacks, Buehler retired the first 14 batters faced before allowing a home run to Christian Walker on an elevated fastball. Buehler commended Walker for driving such a pitch out of the park and said he would live with that result against one of his best offerings.
Buehler ultimately allowed two hits and finished with a season-high 11 strikeout over eight innings of a 2-1 win at Chase Field. He followed that up with another encouraging outing against the San Francisco Giants.
Even with the no-decision Saturday, the 24-year-old is still 7-1 and lowered his ERA to 3.06. In three starts during the month of June, Buehler is 2-0 with a 0.41 ERA and 26 strikeouts against one walk in 22 innings.