When the Dodgers take the field Friday night, they will do so as a first place team. A position they’ve fought hard to get to after such an abysmal start. Standing in front of them and the All-Star break is three games with the Angels, a team that took two of three from them last weekend.
Making his first start since June 8, Walker Buehler takes the ball for the Dodgers. The right-hander has been on a wild ride since being placed on the DL some five weeks ago with a microfracture in one of his ribs on the right side.
The Dodgers plan of letting him pitch three innings out of the bullpen June 28 backfired when he allowed five hits and five runs over one-plus inning. The result was a rehab stint with High-A Rancho and a simulated game Sunday in Anaheim.
Manager Dave Roberts has signaled recently that the team could use a six-man rotation coming out of the All-Star break. With 17 consecutive games before another day off, it would allow the rotation an extra day of rest while the Dodgers figure out what to do with all their starters.
Much like Ross Stripling, Buehler has already contributed more than was expected before the season began. Now he will return to the rotation as the Dodgers look to stay ahead of the teams in their division.
The Angels have started to pull themselves out of the slump they were in recently when they had lost 25 of the 41 games between mid-May and June. But even winning four of the last six games, the Halos are still 13 games out of their division and 10 games behind in the wild card race.
It would’ve already taken a miracle for the Angels to climb back in the playoff race before they got even more bad news about their already depleted starting rotation. It was announced Thursday that Garrett Richards will undergo Tommy John Surgery July 24, meaning the right-hander will miss the rest of this season and next.
Angel Manager Mike Scioscia has been forced to lean on a group of guys that ordinarily wouldn't be starting many games. That includes two of the three starters for this weekend at Dodger Stadium.
Friday, 7:10 p.m. PT (SportsNet LA)
The Dodgers will get their second look at Felix Pena after the right-hander held them to two two runs over 5 1⁄3 innings while striking out eight last Friday.
Buehler will make his sixth start at Dodger Stadium in 2018, having had great success in the first five. The almost 24-year-old is 2-1 with a 1.48 ERA, allowing five runs in 30 1⁄3 innings and striking out 31 while walking only three.
Saturday, 4:15 p.m. PT (FOX)
Andrew Heaney allowed a three-run homer to Yasiel Puig last Sunday night before shutting down the Dodger offense the rest of the way over seven innings.
Clayton Kershaw has allowed five runs in 20 innings over four starts since returning from the DL back on June 23. The last time out was the lefty’s first scoreless start of the year, holding the Padres to just two hits over six innings.
Sunday, 1:10 p.m. PT (SportsNet LA)
The Angels haven’t announced a starter for Sunday but it looks like it could be Deck McGuire. The Dodgers saw him last Saturday in a three-inning spot start as he struck out six and walked two.
Rich Hill has allowed four runs in two of his five starts since returning from the disabled list June 19. The lefty was bit by the home run ball his last time out, but has otherwise pitched well and looks like the blister issue is behind him for now.
Batter to watch
Among several Dodgers that are hitting well this month, Matt Kemp has been scorching the ball in July, hitting .412/.462/647 in 39 plate appearances.