The Dodgers faced one of the best pitchers in baseball and lived to tell about it, thanks to some timely hitting and an elite pitcher of their own. Walker Buehler and the Dodgers beat Kevin Gausman and the Giants 3-1 on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium, completing a brief two-game sweep in Los Angeles.
A five-game win streak has the Dodgers back to within 1½ games of San Francisco in the National League West, exactly where they were nine days ago, before a four-game losing streak that Dave Roberts called “embarrassing” and of which Clayton Kershaw said, “I think maybe it was a wake up call.”
The alarm bells sounded for the Dodgers in the first inning, thanks walks by Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger, sandwiching Justin Turner getting hit by a pitch. It’s the first time this season Gausman walked more than one batter in an inning.
Chris Taylor cashed in the wildness with a two-run double, marking the fourth straight game the Dodgers scored first.
Gausman entered Tuesday with a minuscule 1.49 ERA on the season, thanks in part to a devastating splitter against which batters are hitting just .098 with a .141 slugging percentage, and 83 strikeouts. That includes 0-for-5 with four strikeouts on Tuesday.
“Whether it’s the [Max] Scherzer slider, the [Yu] Darvish slider, the split from Gausman, the [Brandon] Woodruff fastball, the [Corbin] Burnes cutter,” manager Dave Roberts said before the game. “Not counting our guys, [Gausman’s splitter] is up there with the best, as far as a certain pitch that’s elite. It’s tough to manage.”
The Dodgers did walk twice in plate appearances ending in the splitter, part of a season-high five walks for Gausman on the night. They did damage elsewhere. All three hits against Gausman were off his fastball, including a home run by Max Muncy in the third inning, Muncy’s seventh home run in nine games against San Francisco this season.
The patience and the occasional power helped the Dodgers chase Gausman after five innings and 90 pitches, just the third time in 16 starts Gausman failed to pitch at least six innings.
Depth hasn’t been a problem for Buehler, who completed six innings for the 16th time in 16 tries in 2021. This time he pitched into the seventh, and would have completed it if not for a fielding error by Gavin Lux at shortstop. A double by Steven Duggar brought home the only tally against Buehler, whose 113 pitches are his second-most ever, and most in a regular season game.
He threw 117 pitches in Game 5 of the 2019 NLDS.
Dodgers pitchers have allowed eight runs during the five-game winning streak. Joe Kelly, or Joseph if you prefer, finished off the seventh inning, and threw a perfect eighth inning on Tuesday, setting up Kenley Jansen for his 20th save of the year.
The save wasn’t clean for Jansen, who hit his first batter and walked the next, throwing seven of his first eight pitches out of the strike zone.
“I didn’t have a feel for the ball today, on my cutter,” Jansen said. “I’ve just got to execute in a high-leverage situation. I was able to kind of calm down, slow the game down, settle back in and focus to get the next hitter.”
Jansen did recover, inducing a pop out in between two strikeouts to finish the win.
“We trust the big man back there,” Buehler said of Jansen. “Obviously getting out of something like that is a huge, huge thing, and a lot of momentum for us in a lot of ways.”
Kelly in June allowed one earned run in 11 innings. Jansen has allowed none, in 10⅓ innings.
“We don’t think we’ve been playing to out potential every night,” Buehler said of his team, on pace to win 99 games. “Five out of six at home is what we want to do, especially against good teams like that.”
Home run: Max Muncy (17)
WP — Walker Buehler (8-1): 6⅔ IP, 3 hits, 1 unearned run, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts
LP — Kevin Gausman (8-2): 5 IP, 3 hits, 3 runs, 5 walks, 4 strikeouts
Sv — Kenley Jansen (20): 1 IP, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts
The Dodgers are off Wednesday, when they will travel to Washington D.C. for a four-game series against the Nationals. Tony Gonsolin starts the series opener on Thursday (4:05 p.m. PT, SportsNet LA), against left-hander Patrick Corbin.