LOS ANGELES — The result was not what the Dodgers wanted, but there was one positive highlight against the Rockies on Thursday night, with the major league debut of Walker Buehler.
Buehler, the Dodgers’ top pitching prospect and 2015 first-round draft pick out of Vanderbilt, pitched two scoreless innings, striking out two batters while allowing only one hit, a single.
“To see him break in like that, just the presence, the command of all of his pitches, it just looked right,” said manager Dave Roberts.
After Buehler was called up to the majors on Wednesday, Roberts said ideally he’d like to get Buehler into his first game in a low-leverage situation. Down 9-1 after seven innings on Thursday was a perfect setting in that regard.
“It was probably a good thing I didn’t throw last night. It was my first day here in this environment, it’s different,” Buehler said. “It’s a big stadium. But I felt pretty calm. I felt less nervous than I anticipated.”
Buehler threw 18 of his 26 pitches for strikes, and reminded Roberts of one his former teammates.
“I don’t know if he likes the comp, but I played with this young kid in San Francisco when he came up, Tim Lincecum,” Roberts said. “He’s bigger than Tim, but as far as the body type, the wiry strength, the athleticism, poise on the mound, and pure stuff, very comparable for me.”
To start the season, Buehler was in Class-A Rancho Cucamonga, then moved up to Double-A Tulsa, followed by a promotion to Triple-A Oklahoma City before getting the call to the big leagues this week. In his first game with Oklahoma City, on July 20, he faced just five batters, walking three and allowing two hits. He left without recording an out, and allowed four runs.
That start was fresh in his mind Thursday night.
“My Triple-A debut was a disaster, so I was trying to avoid that,” Buehler said. “Luckily, in the big one, I did well.”
At the moment, Buehler is tied with Skip Schumaker, among others, for the lowest ERA in Dodgers franchise history. Edward Paredes, with three runs allowed in the seventh inning, exited said list on Thursday.
Buehler struck out Charlie Blackmon looking and Alexi Amarista swinging in the ninth inning for his first two major league strikeouts. The ball from the Blackmon strikeout will be given to Buehler’s father.
“My dad lived away from me most of my life. As I’ve grown older, I have become more like him,” Buehler said. “He’s a big memorabilia guy, so he’ll get that one.”
With 22 games remaining in the regular season, there is still a chance for Buehler, if he continues to impress, to crack the Dodgers’ postseason bullpen. But he reiterated what he said on Wednesday, that the playoffs aren’t on his mind right now.
“This team has 92 wins. It’s hard to say this team is struggling. They’re in a patch they haven’t been in all year, and I just happened to come at this time. I don’t think I’m any sort of spark plug or anything like that,” Buehler said. “I’m happy and lucky to be here and want to contribute in any way I can.”
Yu Darvish takes the mound on Friday night, another 7:10 p.m. PT start, with right-hander German Marquez starting for the Rockies.