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Dodgers offense can’t back Walker Buehler’s gem in loss to Padres

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LA has scored 10 runs in last 5 games

San Diego Padres v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Dodgers got everything they could have asked from Walker Buehler, who pitched seven strong innings and more than doubled his season high in strikeouts. But the offense continued to slump, falling 3-2 in the fourth exciting game with the Padres in as many tries over the last week.

Ryan Weathers held the Dodgers in check well into the sixth, allowing only a single to Buehler. Weathers in two starts over the last seven days has allowed no runs to the Dodgers in 9⅓ innings, which is doubly impressive considering those were the first two major league starts for the No. 7 overall pick of the 2018 draft.

He left leading 2-0 after striking out six on Thursday, allowing only three to reach base, including a walk and hit by pitch.

The Dodgers offense woke up immediately after he left, and continued to threaten, reaching base eight times over the final 3⅓ innings against five Padres relievers. They even tied the game on back-to-back home runs in the seventh inning by AJ Pollock and Sheldon Neuse, for the latter his first hit as a Dodger.

But the Dodgers failed to cash in any of the other runners to reach base. The best chance came in the eighth inning, after a Will Smith double to left put runners on second and third base with nobody out, and the Dodgers trailing by a run. But a pair of ground balls to second baseman Jake Cronenworth ended the threat. One was ordinary, preventing any runners from advancing, and the other was spectacular, a sprawling double play with Fernando Tatis Jr. to end the inning with San Diego still leading.

“They had to make a great play, turn a big double play to hold us off,” manager Dave Roberts said. “We took good at-bats the second part of the game, and had a good chance to win. I thought we played a clean baseball game.”

The Padres reacquired the lead in the eighth inning against Blake Treinen, with singles by Jurickson Profar and catcher Victor Caratini put runners at the corners to open the frame. Tatis followed with a double play ball that helped prevent a bigger inning but also allowed the winning run to score.

Seams good

Buehler was solid and effective in his first three starts, lasting exactly six innings in each one. He just didn’t really strike anyone out, something he was well aware of and was working on.

“He’s kind of like a sports car in the sense of the fine-tuning his delivery. He’s very in tune with his delivery, and I think some things in the delivery allowed for hitters to see the ball a little bit longer,” Roberts said before Thursday’s game. “He cleaned that up in his last ‘pen, so it should be different tonight, and going forward.”

It was different for Buehler in this one, lasting through seven innings. He allowed only two runs, including a rocket home run by Trent Grisham into the right field pavilion. Grisham pummeled a four-seam fastball, but otherwise that pitch was working wonders for Buehler all night.

He threw 50 four-seamers on the night and got 14 swing and misses on the pitch, including finishing off eight of his nine strikeouts with the fastball. The nine strikeouts came after three straight starts of exactly four strikeouts for Buehler. He also got 11 called strikes on the fastball alone, meaning exactly half of his fastballs were either a called strike or a whiff.

For context, among qualified pitchers, the top called strike and walk rate (CSW%) in the majors for all pitches is 38.3 percent, by Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes.

“I thought the fastball was better,” Buehler said. That was more like myself, or what I’ve done in the past. We’ll just keep building on that.”

Buehler also walked none on Thursday, giving him 21 strikeouts against only one walk in his 25 innings this season.

Ribbing & RBIing

Dodgers fans were out in full force — 15,167 of them, anyway — to boo the rival Padres. Tatis, when lineups were introduced, was jeered accustomed to a budding star of his stature. The real ire was saved for Manny Machado, who had a much louder decibel level aimed his way.

Fans were on Machado most of the night, sometimes with the cliched “Manny sucks,” but other times a little more creative. Like in the fourth inning, when fans on the first base side were yelling, “Pay your debt” to Machado, referring to the time during the 2019 season when he joked to a jeering Dodgers fan, “I’ll bet you my contract we’ll win the World Series before you guys do,” as recounted by Bryce Miller at the San Diego Union Tribune.

Machado, who has $240 million remaining on his contract through 2028, got the last laugh in this inning though, driving in Tatis with the second of three Padres singles in the frame, for the game’s first run.

Thursday particulars

Home runs: AJ Pollock (1), Sheldon Neuse (1); Trent Grisham (4)

WP — Nabil Crismatt (1-1): ⅔ IP, 2 hits

LP — Blake Treinen (1-1): 1 IP, 3 hits, 1 run

Sv — Mark Melancon (7): 1 IP, 3 strikeouts