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Walker Buehler, Dodgers finish off sweep of Cubs

Sunday was Buehler’s 100th career start

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Chicago Cubs Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

To begin their gauntlet of 31 games in 31 30 days, the Dodgers wanted to rely on starting pitching to take some pressure off of a bullpen that is sure to be taxed over the next month. Sunday night saw the Dodgers send their best to the mound, and Walker Buehler delivered with seven strong innings to beat the Cubs, 7-1, finishing off a sweep at Wrigley Field.

Buehler induced a season-high 15 swinging strikes on Sunday. He kept the Cubs off balance by throwing his cutter the most often. Buehler threw the cutter 38 times in his 98 pitches, a pitch he’s thrown 26 percent of the time this year.

After a double and single scored a run in the first inning, Buehler kept Chicago off the board after that, giving up only two singles and two walks the rest of the way. He struck out six on the night.

Buehler and his teammate Clayton Kershaw aren’t perfect comps because of the trajectory of their careers, with Kershaw drafted out of high school and debuting at age 20, while Buehler was drafted out of college and had Tommy John surgery before making his pro debut. But both are Dodgers aces, and sometimes it’s fun to look at things a little differently.

With the caveat that Kershaw when he made his 100th career start was four years, eight months younger than Buehler is now, here’s how the two compare after 100 career starts:

The first 100 starts

Pitcher W-L Innings H BB K ERA WHIP
Pitcher W-L Innings H BB K ERA WHIP
Walker Buehler 43-13 599⅔ 446 145 652 2.70 0.986
Clayton Kershaw 34-26 596⅔ 474 254 621 3.14 1.220
These numbers don’t include Buehler’s nine relief appearances, nor Kershaw’s two career relief appearances he had at the time of his 100th start

Kershaw won his first Cy Young Award in the year he made his 100th career start.

Buehler is 43-13 in his starts, his .768 winning percentage the second-best in major league history in a pitcher’s first 100 starts, trailing only Whitey Ford (.773), per ESPN Stats & Info.

Buehler, Kershaw, and Tyler Anderson allowed three runs in 19 innings during the weekend sweep at Wrigley Field. The entire pitching staff has allowed six total runs on the six-game win streak.

Just about any amount of offense can win with that level of run prevention, but the Dodgers were able to score in a variety of ways on Sunday.

They had a traditional RBI single, but also scored a run on a double play grounder by Trea Turner, the fastest man on the team, scored another on a wild pitch that bounced so high off the plate Mookie Betts almost scored before the ball even came down. For good measure, an error plated the final two runs in the top of the ninth.

The Dodgers also had two sacrifice flies, the first of which off the bat of Justin Turner, who was wearing a microphone for the ESPN broadcast. His sacrifice fly came in the fourth inning, after Max Muncy walked during a plate appearance in which Cubs catcher Willson Contreras, as Turner described on television, “it looked like [Muncy] got grabbed in the junk.”

It was an odd night, but another win for the Dodgers, who leave town at 19-7.

Sunday particulars

Home runs: none

WP — Walker Buehler (4-1): 7 IP, 4 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts

LP — Justin Steele (1-4): 4 IP, 3 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts

Up next

The Dodgers take their six-game winning streak to Pittsburgh for a three-game series. The first two games start at 3:35 p.m. PT, which is roughly the same time USA Network used to air reruns of Barnaby Jones. Julio Urías starts Monday’s opener, facing left-hander Jose Quintana.