Buehler perfect, Stone almost unhittable in Triple-A outing

September 4th, 2023

It’s not every day that a top-five organizational prospect relieves a two-time Major League All-Star in the Minors. But jumped at that chance on Sunday, though, when he relieved after the righty's two perfect frames in his return from right elbow UCL reconstruction.

Los Angeles' No. 5 prospect followed up almost as impressively with six one-hit innings, taking a no-hit bid into the seventh, in the Triple-A Dodgers' 9-1 win over Round Rock at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. Stone struck out seven and walked one.

“I’ve gotten to know Walker pretty good over this year,” he said. “He makes me more competitive … and just gives me more energy. Hopefully, he can get back up there (in Los Angeles) sooner than later, but I’ll definitely take my advantage of having him here.”

Buehler, who underwent UCL reconstruction in February, made his first appearance since pitching for Los Angeles against San Francisco on June 10, 2022. And it was a dominant one.

The 6-foot-2 right-hander threw 15 of his 24 pitches for strikes. In the first, he got top Rangers prospect Evan Carter to line out and sixth-ranked Justin Foscue to fly out before notching his first K of the day on a 95.6 mph four-seam fastball to Elier Hernandez in the first. 

The next frame, Buehler whiffed Blaine Crim on three straight pitches, then induced a lineout by Davis Wendzel and a groundout by 10th-ranked Dustin Harris to cap the start.

It was also Stone's return to Oklahoma City after picking up a win on Aug. 27 against the Red Sox in Fenway Park in his last start. MLB's No. 81 overall prospect gave up four runs on five hits (including three homers) while striking out two. He didn't issue any walks, but he plunked two batters. 

“I’ve kind of gone to a kind of two-seam/cutter mix, and I think that’s just helped to keep people off of the ball early in counts,” Stone said. “And that just allows me to get to two strikes a little bit easier and to take advantage of counts a little bit more. Those two pitches have definitely helped out a lot.”

Although Foscue laced a double to left field to break up the no-hitter to start the seventh, the 24-year-old rebounded with six straight outs to end the inning and his outing. 

“You just keep executing and executing and executing, over and over again and good results will happen,” Stone said. “And that’s just what I was thinking. I wasn’t trying to keep the no-hitter going or the perfect game. … You just execute. That’s all you can really think about. Not trying to not give up a hit, or not give up a walk. I feel like that’s just the wrong mentality to have up there.”

Stone (7-4) sports a 2.49 ERA over his past 47 innings (seven starts, two relief appearances) for Oklahoma City. And Buehler's presence pays dividends that extend outside the game.

“We just share ideas, and just shoot the [breeze],” Stone said. “We just talk about anything really, he’s a really good dude. Really easy to talk to, really easy to communicate with. And so we talk about a lot of things, not just baseball.”