Walker Buehler’s past two starts have been among his best in the 2019 season. However, the Los Angeles Dodgers have failed to support their young right-hander, losing both games thanks to poor bullpen and defensive performances.
While Buehler looks to keep one trend going against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday, the Dodgers hope to stop the other one. Fortunately, there is a lot going the Dodgers’ way heading into their series opener in Pittsburgh.
Buehler comes in with 4-1 record to go along with a 3.83 ERA, 3.21 FIP and 1.05 WHIP with 46 strikeouts and 10 walks in 49.1 innings across nine starts. After a rough start to the season, he has pitched to a 2.41 ERA in his last six starts. This is his first career start against the Pirates.
Although the team’s bullpen struggled again in an 8-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday, several key Dodgers relievers enter Friday with multiple days of rest. Additionally, Pedro Baez appears to have dodged a bullet after a line drive hit him in the leg on Tuesday. X-rays found that Baez had avoided a leg fracture and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts expressed optimism that Baez could pitch over the weekend.
The Dodgers have also enjoyed plenty of recent success against the Pirates. Since the start of the 2017 season, Los Angeles is 14-2 against Pittsburgh. That includes a recent three-game sweep of the Pirates at Dodger Stadium on April 26-28.
Pittsburgh sends Michael Feliz to the mound. Feliz is a veteran right-handed pitcher who came to the Pirates from the Houston Astros in the Gerrit Cole trade–and has never started a Major League game before Friday. The Pirates will use him as part of an ‘opener’ strategy which has popped up more and more across Major League Baseball recently.
The Tampa Bay Rays, which first introduced the concept, used an opener in both games of their series with the Dodgers earlier this week.
Roberts will likely use a similar approach Friday as he did against the Rays. Matt Beaty got the start at designated hitter in both of those games, with David Freese available to pinch-hit for him early take over from there. Freese is already in the Dodgers lineup on Friday, so Chris Taylor will likely replace Beaty after his first at-bat.
The Dodgers face the tough task of slowing down Pirates first baseman Josh Bell, who has emerged as an MVP candidate in the National League. He is slashing .339/.408/.718 with 16 home runs and a Major-League-leading 47 RBI on the season. He has homered four times in his last five games.
LF: Matt Beaty
2B: Max Muncy
3B: Justin Turner
RF: Cody Bellinger
SS: Corey Seager
1B: David Freese
CF: Kiké Hernández
C: Austin Barnes
P: Walker Buehler
2B: Adam Frazier
CF: Starling Marte
LF: Gregory Polanco
1B: Josh Bell
LF: Bryan Reynolds
3B: Colin Moran
C: Elias Diaz
SS: Cole Tucker
P: Michael Feliz