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Walker Buehler overcomes brief wildness to limit D-backs

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Buehler struck out 7 in 7 scoreless innings

Arizona Diamondbacks v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Walker Buehler pitched seven scoreless innings, and the Dodgers held on for a 3-1 win over the Diamondbacks in Monday night’s series opener at Dodger Stadium.

The only thing more wild than seeing Albert Pujols in a Dodgers uniform was seeing Walker Buehler, well, wild. Buehler entered the night with 47 strikeouts against only three walks, trailing only Gerrit Cole among qualified pitchers in strikeout-to-walk ratio. But he walked four Diamondbacks on Monday, including three in a row in the fourth inning.

It was the fourth time Buehler has ever walked three in one inning, with the previous three frames coming in the National League Division Series from 2018-20.

That loaded the bases with only one out, and the Dodgers clinging to a 2-0 lead. Twelve balls out of the previous 15 pitches brought a mound visit from pitching coach Mark Prior, after which Buehler settled down. He struck out Nick Ahmed swinging, and got Tim Locastro to fly out to end the inning with no damage.

“It calmed me down,” Buehler said of Prior’s mound visit. “He got me where I needed to be.”

“It was a really good visit, and just got him to go to a slider. I just think in that inning he didn’t have feel for the fastball or the cut fastball,” manager Dave Roberts said. “That kind of reset him. That’s an aggressive-swinging team, and you’re thinking, ‘If he can get through the fifth inning,’ and he ends up going seven.”

Despite the walks, Buehler only allowed one hit — an infield single — and no runs, with seven strikeouts. He also got through seven innings, the eighth time in eight starts this season he’s pitched at least six innings, the longest such streak of his career.

After the mound visit from Prior, Buehler retired his final 11 batters faced, and threw 26 of his 32 pitches for strikes. After the fourth inning, Buehler got some words of encouragement from his new teammate.

“I was just telling him, ‘Great job. You made some really mature pitches. You didn’t let the moment take you out of control’,” Pujols said.

The final out of Buehler’s start was an impressive catch by Mookie Betts in foul territory down the right field line.

On offense, the Dodgers were able to chase Madison Bumgarner after four innings thanks to wildness of his own. He walked four and the Dodgers walked seven times on the night.

Bumgarner might have pitched deeper in the game, but left with an injury.

Will Smith homered in the second inning for the game’s first run, then in the third inning Pujols cashed in one of those walks with a ground ball single up the middle, for his first RBI as a Dodger.

“I feel like I still got some gasoline left in my tank,” Pujols said before the game.

“He’s a pro. He takes professional at-bats. He has a plan when he gets in the box,” Roberts said. “He knows how to drive in a run.”

Rollercoaster inning

Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said the defensive struggles of the team has been the most perplexing part of the season, a problem that’s been exacerbated as the depth gets further tested and some are playing out of position at times.

“I would bet on the group we have, especially as we get back healthy, and have guys in the right spots. I very much believe that we’re an elite defensive team, and we have not played like that to this point. It’s important for us to get back to that as quickly as we can. With the guys we have hurt right now, it’s going to be more difficult to do that.”

One of those players hurt right now is Corey Seager, out with a broken hand. Gavin Lux started at shortstop the last two days, and in the eighth inning on Monday saw two balls in the hole that required sliding attempts, but both ended up as hits, helping Arizona cut the Dodgers’ two-run lead in half.

But, after Kenley Jansen entered with two outs in the eighth, they got out of the frame with no further damage thanks to a ranging play by Justin Turner for the final out.

After an insurance run thanks to a Smith double and Lux singling him home in the eighth pushed the lead back to two, Jansen worked around a walk and a single to finish off Arizona in the ninth for his third save longer than an inning this season.

Notes

  • Lux doubled in the sixth and singled in the eighth, and has reached base in six straight games, going 8-for-21 (.381) with three extra-base hits during the streak.
  • Jansen has 12 unintentional walks this season, more than his season totals in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2020.
  • The Dodgers as a team lead the majors with 192 walks, 19 more than any other team.
  • DJ Peters was intentionally walked in the eighth, forcing the pitcher’s spot to bat. Jansen, making his 10th career plate appearance (and eighth batting left-handed), struck out. His career on-base percentage plummeted to .400.
  • Chris Taylor, who was scratched from Sunday’s lineup with right wrist soreness, played second base in the ninth inning. Taylor will start at third base Tuesday, Roberts said, with Justin Turner getting a day off.
  • Pujols will start at first base again on Tuesday.

Monday particulars

Home run: Will Smith (4)

WP — Walker Buehler (2-0): 7 IP, 1 hit, 4 walks, 7 strikeouts

LP — Madison Bumgarner (4-3): 4 IP, 2 hits, 2 runs, 4 walks, 5 strikeouts

Sv — Kenley Jansen (8): 1⅓ IP, 1 hit, 1 walk

Up next

Julio Urías starts for the Dodgers on Tuesday night (7:10 p.m., SportsNet LA) in the second game of the four-game series against the Diamondbacks.