'Free & easy' Lux leads LA with bookend HRs

Dodgers rally after short start from Buehler, who downplays blister concerns

September 9th, 2020

and are two rare talents whose 2020 seasons are lessons in high expectations.

The Dodgers are the best team in baseball, even though neither Lux nor Buehler will be winning those awards after slow starts. On Tuesday night at Chase Field, though, Lux reminded us just what he’s capable of, blasting a pair of home runs to help the Dodgers overcome a short start by Buehler in a wild 10-9 comeback win over the D-backs, in which the Dodgers had 12 walks and stranded 15.

Lux drove in five runs, and every bit of his three-run homer in a four-run 10th inning was needed, as the D-backs scored three times against closer Kenley Jansen in the bottom of the inning to fall just short.

With the win, the Dodgers avoided their first three-game losing streak in more than a year. And while there is ongoing concern over Buehler and the stubborn right index finger blister, at least Lux is finally showing some signs of why MLB Pipeline has him rated as the game’s No. 2 prospect.

The Dodgers seem to be striking a tricky balance with Lux, who arrived late to Summer Camp with a swing that wasn’t ready and wild throws that brought back memories of his spring 2019 yips. He has been given a runway to win the starting second-base job for the postseason, as he was last September. Despite the slow start since his callup late last month, Lux continues to get opportunities.

A 10-pitch walk in the ninth inning Sunday earned praise from manager Dave Roberts. Lux’s next at-bat was an opposite-field home run in the second inning on Tuesday.

“I was looking to grind it out, get it to the next guy and pass the torch,” Lux said of Sunday’s walk, when he battled back from an 0-2 count to bring up hot-hitting Corey Seager. “Any time you can work a 10-pitch walk in that situation, it always helps your confidence a little bit.”

Roberts said Lux is playing “much more like himself, much more free and easy.”

Three hits and a walk helped blunt Lux’s throwing error that led to Arizona’s five-run third inning and Buehler’s exit after 2 2/3 innings. The error made three of Buehler’s five runs unearned, although Buehler downplayed the effects of the blister that put him on the injured list last month, instead blaming the pitches.

Buehler retired the first seven batters he faced, firing triple-digit fastballs repeatedly, then lost location while rarely throwing breaking pitches and served up home runs to Daulton Varsho and Kole Calhoun. Buehler wasn’t late to Summer Camp, but he also wasn’t built up as much as other starters and he still hasn’t caught up. He has failed to finish the fifth inning in three of his seven starts.

“We made a decision for me to go out and pitch,” said Buehler. “It just didn’t go our way in the third. Obviously, a couple home runs. Other than those two swings, I made some decent pitches and just didn’t get out of it and that’s on me.

“I feel good physically and that’s about it. I’m trying to learn how to deal with it and execute, and I assume my goal is to be better next year. I’ve said it a million times, I’ve had a few tough ones this year and I haven’t sunk the ship. We have a really good team. Happy to get out of here with a win. I’m not overly concerned, I just want to pitch better. I don’t think today was a result of that [blister]. It’s something -- no offense -- that you [media] guys will talk about and whatnot. To me, I just didn’t make pitches. The ball is coming out of my hand about as well as it ever has.”

Roberts was noncommittal about whether Buehler would make his next start or be given extra days for the blister to heal. The postseason begins in less than three weeks.

“We have to manage the workload and make sure he’s ready to make his next start and get through October,” Roberts said. “Right now, [skipping a start] is not the plan. But obviously, we’ll see how it is tomorrow. We don’t want to put him or us in any kind of jeopardy. Nothing’s off the table, but I expect him to make his next start -- but we’ll have discussions.”