Walker Buehler withstood an uncharacteristic bout of early wildness to beat the Rangers, continuing to anchor an impressive rotation, and the Dodgers held on to win 5-3 over Texas on Sunday at Dodger Stadium.
It was a leisurely stroll in the park for the Dodgers, with a five-run lead to start the ninth inning, but Phil Bickford retired none of the four batters he faced. Kenley Jansen was called in to clean up the mess and, though he allowed two singles of his to score one of his two inherited runners, he was able to record the final three outs for his 15th save of the season.
Texas scored three in the ninth, but left the bases loaded. Those were the Rangers’ only three runs of the game.
Texas loaded the bases with three walks against Buehler in the first, who also struck out two of his first five batters faced. When Nick Solak grounded out to third base to end the threat, it was the first ball in play against Buehler in a 33-pitch opening frame.
It was the best scoring chance Texas had all day against Buehler, who scattered five singles and a hit by pitch without walking a batter after the first. For the second time this week, Buehler did not allow a run, this time in six innings.
“After that first inning, to see that he put up six zeroes is a credit to him,” manager Dave Roberts said. “Every time he takes the ball, he’s expected to go deep into the game, and he’s done that for us.”
Two starts ago, Buehler said how important it was to get through at least six or seven innings every time out, adding, “Five innings feels a little copout-y.”
So far this season, Buehler has pitched at least six innings in all 13 of his starts, and on the team that leads the majors in innings per start, Buehler leads the Dodgers in that department, averaging 6.41 innings per outing.
Dodgers starting rotation
The two scoreless starts lowered Buehler’s ERA to 2.38, though thanks in part to a career-low 23.8-percent strikeout rate his FIP is 3.70. That’s been mitigated somewhat by Buehler’s 5.3-percent walk rate, only a shade higher than his 2019 career best, which is what made the three in the first inning stand out. He only has 17 walks in 13 starts this season.
Buehler also leads the team in first-pitch outs (29), including four on Sunday. Rangers batters also hit into outs six times on the second pitch of the at-bat against him.
“You’re trying to throw good, quality strikes early in the count, and set up some things,” Buehler explained. “If you’re doing that well and they hit it and swing early, then you got them out of there pretty quick. If not, hopefully you’re ahead, then you’re looking to try to do something else.
“It’s a singular game plan that, if you execute, you can have some success.”
Buehler struck out five on Sunday, improving to 6-0 on the season.
“The goal is to get outs. When he needs a strikeout, he’s shown the ability to get a strikeout,” Roberts said before Sunday’s game. “But I’m more concerned about getting outs efficiently.”
Mookie Betts paced the Dodgers offense, scoring three of the five runs thanks to two hits and a walk, including his second home run in four days. The three runs scored for Betts is a season high.
“I’ve been late a lot. A lot of ground balls and lazy pop-ups, so I’m really just trying to get the barrel to the ball and make some solid contact,” Betts said. “I don’t necessarily know exactly what I need to do, which is the frustrating part. But that’s part of the game, and you have to find a way.”
With Justin Turner getting a day off, Zach McKinstry got the call at third base, his second straight start. Since returning from missing six weeks with an oblique strain, McKinstry was just 2-for-23 (.087), but on Sunday he doubled home two runs in the third inning, part of a three-hit day plus a walk in the series finale.
Gavin Lux also doubled home a run in a two-hit day.
Home run: Mookie Betts (7)
WP — Walker Buehler (6-0): 6 IP, 5 hits, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts
LP — Dane Dunning (2-5): 4 IP, 7 hits, 4 runs, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts
Sv — Kenley Jansen (15): 1 IP, 2 hits
Philadelphia comes to town for three games to finish off the homestand, beginning Monday night (7:10 p.m.; SportsNet LA, MLB Network). Tony Gonsolin makes his second start since getting activated off the injured list, facing Phillies right-hander Spencer Howard in the series opener.