Walker Buehler was pulled after only four innings with elbow discomfort, and everything went south after that for the Dodgers, who dropped the series opener to the Giants, 7-2 on Friday night at Oracle Park in San Francisco.
There were some signs of improvement for Walker Buehler, who was missing bats — 11 swinging strikes in his four innings, more than four of his last five starts — and only allowed three hits in his first three frames. But all three were bunched together in a four-batter stretch, plating two runs in the second inning.
Buehler rebounded after the scoring rally, striking out five consecutive batters, giving him six on the night. But that streak was snapped when Darin Ruf jumped on a slider for a solo home run in the fourth inning.
Buehler threw just 70 pitches in his four innings, the second inning the largest strain on the odometer at 25 pitches. This followed recording only seven outs in his previous start, last Saturday against the Mets at Dodger Stadium.
Buehler on the season has a 4.02 ERA and 3.84 FIP in 12 starts, with a career-low 21.2-percent strikeout rate. Over his last six starts, Buehler allowed 22 runs in 28⅓ innings.
Justin Bruihl entered in relief of Buehler in the fifth inning of a 3-2 game, then allowed an infield single against the shift with one out, followed by a slow tapper halfway to the mound that Bruihl fell down while attempting to field. He then exacerbated the play by throwing wild down the right field line, putting runners at the corners.
A strikeout set the stage for a series of callbacks to earlier this week. First base was open with two outs, a left-handed pitcher on the mound, with a right-handed hitter up, and a left-handed batter on deck. Manager Dave Roberts opted to walk Wilmer Flores intentionally — before a pitch was thrown, by the way, unlike Chicago’s fateful decision on Thursday — bringing up old friend Joc Pederson, a career .207/.282/.327, 67 wRC+ hitter against southpaws entering Friday.
Roberts got the matchup he wanted, just like Tuesday in Chicago, when old friend AJ Pollock jumped on David Price’s first pitch for a two-run double. On a 2-0 count Friday, Bruihl gave the fastball hitter Pederson a two-seamer, and Pederson hit a 105-mph ground ball single to bring home two runs. Ruf added a single to plate another run to cap Bruihl’s nightmare inning.
On a night their ace — who hasn’t been pitching much like an ace of late — left early, the Dodgers couldn’t afford many mistakes. But the Giants pounced on each opportunity. Ruf punished a slider that caught too much of the plate, San Francisco had a big inning after Bruihl’s errant throw, and the home team was 4-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
For good measure, Ruf added a second home run in the eighth inning, this one against David Price.
The Dodgers got four hits their first time through the lineup facing Jakob Junis, with Chris Taylor’s double scoring Justin Turner from first base in the second inning. But they only got one more hit off Junis, a solo home run by Gavin Lux, following up his four-hit game on Thursday in Chicago.
On his fourth pitch of the sixth inning, Junis collapsed in front of the mound, exiting the game with a left hamstring strain.
The Dodgers managed only one hit and one walk in four innings against the Giants bullpen.
Home runs: Gavin Lux (2); Darin Ruf 2 (5)
WP — Jakob Junis (4-1): 5+ IP, 5 hits, 2 runs, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts
LP — Walker Buehler (6-3): 4 IP, 4 hits, 3 runs, 6 strikeouts
Clayton Kershaw makes his return from the injured list to start on Saturday afternoon, appearing in his first major league game in five weeks. The Giants are going with a bullpen game. The 4:15 p.m. game will be televised exclusively by Fox, with Adam Amin and AJ Pierzynski on the call.
Dodgers-Giants will be available on Fox to 23 percent of the country, per the network, shown on Fox in these television markets: Albuquerque, Denver, Fresno, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle.