The Dodgers homered their way to a 7-3 win over the Braves in Friday’s series opener at Dodger Stadium, but Walker Buehler was the latest Dodgers pitcher to exit earlier than expected, another red flag for an already-decimated starting rotation.
Dodgers relievers pitched 54 innings in their previous last 10 games, including 15⅓ innings over the previous two days. On a night the team desperately needed a starter to go deep in the game, Buehler looked like he was going to do just that, retiring his first 12 batters of the game.
Buehler was at just 71 pitches with one out in the sixth inning, 10 of those throws coming in a strikeout of Juan Camargo to open the inning. But it was after that at-bat that trainer Nate Lucero and manager Dave Roberts made a visit to the mound, and pulled Buehler as a precaution with rib soreness.
Four starts ago, Buehler was hit in the ribs by a line drive off the bat of Trevor Story against the Rockies on May 21.
Buehler’s velocity dipped in the sixth inning on Friday, which necessitated the mound visit.
“For me that was a big red flag that he was protecting,” manager Dave Roberts said, as seen on SportsNet LA. “He said he had a little bit of trouble breathing, and he was in pain.”
Buehler was sent for scans of his ribs, and will be reevaluated on Saturday.
It is unknown just how serious this malady is for Buehler, but the Dodgers are down to just three healthy starting pitchers. Things are dire enough as it is, with no real capacity to absorb another blow to the rotation.
From a game standpoint, the Dodgers were able to exhale thanks to four solo home runs, including a pair by Yasmani Grandal, and Joc Pederson hitting his sixth home run in his last seven games. Max Muncy homered too as did Cody Bellinger, who homered in his fourth consecutive games.
The Dodgers have 22 home runs in seven June games, and have hit multiple home runs in 11 of their last 14 games. They now sit atop the National League with 78 home runs as a team.
With their 16th win in the last 21 games, the Dodgers are now in a three-way tie for second place in the National League West, 1½ games back of the Diamondbacks. At 32-31 the Dodgers are over .500 for the first time since April 23.
Yasiel Puig was removed for a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning, and Roberts didn’t elaborate on the reason after the game.
Yasiel Puig exited early because of an “in-house thing,” Dave Roberts said, and did not specify what. He said Puig will play tomorrow.— Pedro Moura (@pedromoura) June 9, 2018
Alex Wood gets the ball on Saturday night for the Dodgers in a 6:10 p.m. PT start, with Anibal Sanchez starting for Atlanta.
Home runs: Yasmani Grandal 2 (11), Joc Pederson (7), Max Muncy (10), Cody Bellinger (12); Juan Camargo (6)
WP - Walker Buehler (4-1): 5⅓ IP, 2 hits, 1 run, 4 strikeouts
LP - Brandon McCarthy (5-3): 4⅔ IP, 5 hits, 4 runs, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts