Walker Buehler had his best start of September, leading the Dodgers over the Padres 2-1 on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium, and looking more like the reliable workhorse he was in the first five months of the season.
The Dodgers needed the win just to keep pace with the Giants, who beat Arizona 6-4 in San Francisco. The Giants lead the National League West by two games, with five left to play.
Should the Dodgers end up as a wild card team, they would host the St. Louis Cardinals, who won their 17th straight game on Tuesday and clinched the second wild card spot. The NL wild card game will be held on Wednesday, October 6.
The Padres, who fell under .500 for the first time all season, didn’t have a hit until the fifth inning, when Eric Hosmer beat out an infield chopper. He was erased on a double play, one of two induced by Buehler.
Buehler pitched seven innings, the 14th time he’s lasted at least that long this season, the third-most games in the majors. He allowed only three hits and two walks, keeping the Padres off the scoreboard.
“He was in command all night,” manager Dave Roberts said. “In control, just all quadrants, his entire pitch mix. Everything he had tonight had teeth.”
It was a much-needed gem from the Dodgers right-hander, who allowed 16 runs in 19⅔ innings in his first four starts of the month.
“The last four haven’t been quite what I wanted so it feels good to go out and put up zeroes and help the team win,” Buehler said.
His strikeout of Fernando Tatis Jr. in the fourth inning was Buehler’s 200th of the season, the second time in his career he’s fanned that many. Buehler’s seven scoreless frames, giving him 202⅔ innings pitched, a new career high.
Buehler is the first Dodgers pitcher to throw 200 innings in six years, since Clayton Kershaw (232⅔ innings) and Zach Greinke (222⅔) did so in 2015. Both finished in the top three in National League Cy Young Award voting that season, something Buehler is certainly in contention for this year.
“It’s what I’ve been talking about all year, going deeper into games. Those two numbers together are something I’m definitely proud of,” Buehler said. “I think it’s a big thing for me as a starting pitcher to have a year like that.”
Through Tuesday, Buehler is third in the NL in innings, third in ERA (2.49), eighth in FIP (3.23), and ninth in strikeouts.
On Tuesday the Dodgers were able to accomplish a first for 2021: getting Yu Darvish out of the game before completing six innings. They threatened constantly, putting nine runners on base in the first three innings. Only two scored, but enough damage was done to chase Darvish after 85 pitches and just four innings.
Trea Turner was instrumental for the Dodgers on Tuesday. He doubled home Mookie Betts in the first inning, then led off with a single in the third inning and scored on a single by AJ Pollock.
Turner’s .325 batting average leads the NL, with former teammate Juan Soto (.318) in second place. Turner said Soto sent him a text saying he was coming for him.
“It would obviously be pretty special just because there’s so many good players,” said Turner, who also stole his NL-best 32nd base on Tuesday. “When you’re leading in any category, at least a good category, that’s a good thing, and you should take pride in it.”
Home run: Jake Cronenworth (21)
WP — Walker Buehler (15-4): 7 IP, 3 hits, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts
LP — Yu Darvish (8-11): 4 IP, 5 hits, 2 runs, 4 walks, 6 strikeouts
Sv — Blake Treinen (7): 1 IP, 1 hit, 1 run, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts
Max Scherzer makes his final home regular season start on Wednesday night (7:10 p.m.; SportsNet LA, ESPN). David Weathers starts for the Padres.