Walker Buehler’s bonafides are very well established despite his relatively young career, currently in his fourth full major league season. He’s the Dodgers’ ace with a sparkling postseason résumé, but another way to ingratiate himself with the Los Angeles fanbase is by beating the rival Giants.
Buehler starts Sunday night’s series finale on ESPN ‘Sunday Night Baseball,’ with the winner leaving San Francisco in first place in the National League West.
In 12 career games against the Giants, including 10 starts, Buehler is 7-0 with a 1.83 ERA, with the Dodgers winning eight of Buehler’s 10 starts. The two losses both came this season, though not charged to Buehler’s ledger. He allowed two runs (one earned) in six innings on May 28, and was even better on July 22, allowing only one run in 7⅓ innings.
Both of those games were at Dodger Stadium. Buehler has won all six career starts at Oracle Park in San Francisco.
Even with the two team losses, Buehler is having a season for the ages against the Giants, allowing only five total runs in his five starts against them, including just three earned runs. That’s a minuscule 0.79 ERA in 34 innings.
Since earned runs became official in the National League in 1912, only two Dodgers pitchers had a 1.50 or better ERA in at least six starts against the Giants in a single season — Van Lingle Mungo at 1.13 for Brooklyn in 1933, and Clayton Kershaw at 1.07 in 2011.
Kershaw was 5-0 against the Giants in 2011, his first Cy Young-winning season. This year could be Buehler’s turn to add to the trophy case.
Buehler leads the majors in ERA (2.05), and ranks second in the National League in innings (176) and bWAR (5.8). Zach Wheeler of the Phillies leads in bWAR (6.1), innings (182⅔), and strikeouts (208). Corbin Burnes of the Brewers leads in fWAR (6.3) and has a huge lead in FIP (1.58), but also has pitched 37 fewer innings than Buehler.
Wherever he finishes, Buehler is in excellent position to relatively cash in. His 2022 base salary gets a bump of $1.125 million if he wins the Cy Young Award this year, and next year goes up by $625,000 if he finishes second or third.
Buehler’s base salary next year will be $6.25 million after Sunday night, which is his 28th start this season. Buehler’s original base salary next year was $3.25 million, as part of the two-year, $8 million contract he signed in February to avoid his first two years of salary arbitration, but he’s added $500,000 to 2022 for each of 14, 16, 18, 20, 24, and 28 starts in 2021.
Teams: Dodgers (86-50) at Giants (86-50)
Location: Oracle Park, San Francisco
Time: 4:08 p.m.