After hanging on for a victory in the series opener, the Los Angeles Dodgers were in position to pull even with the St. Louis Cardinals for the second National League Wild Card spot. But to do so they’d have to solve rookie standout Jack Flaherty.
He notched 10 strikeouts and held the Dodgers to just one run — on a Joc Pederson homer — over six innings in a start last month at Dodger Stadium. Flaherty outdueled fellow rookie Walker Buehler, who started opposite him Friday night.
Rather than the pressure-packed environment at Busch Stadium negatively impacting him, Buehler shined in the moment. His fastball velocity never dropped off despite pitching into the eighth inning for the first time in his professional career.
Following the win, Buehler enthusiastically described what allowed him to continue throwing with his usual velocity and the Dodgers’ quest to reach the postseason, via SportsNet LA:
“I mean, there’s times you can let the ball go. You get into the right counts, and you can let some stuff go. But it’s a big game, man. We’re trying to make the [expletive] playoffs. It’s tough.”
Not only did Buehler’s velocity hold, he was utterly dominant for much of the night. He retired the first 13 batters faced before allowing a base hit with one out in the fifth inning. An infield single put two on with two outs but Buehler stranded both runners.
He didn’t face trouble again until issuing a pair of walks in the eighth inning. The second of which brought NL MVP candidate and the league’s home run leader, Matt Carpenter, to the plate as the tying run.
Buehler followed a 99 mph fastball, albeit called for ball two, with an 82 mph curveball that bounced in the dirt and got Carpenter to chase.
Now in two starts against the Cardinals this season, Buehler has thrown a combined 15 shutout innings, allowed five hits, and collected 18 strikeouts.