LOS ANGELES -- The afternoon was centered around the introduction of future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols and the activations of David Price and Yoshi Tsutsugo. The night belonged to Walker Buehler.
Buehler continued his strong season, tossing seven scoreless innings in the Dodgers’ 3-1 win over the D-backs on Monday at Dodger Stadium. Los Angeles has won five of its last six games.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Pujols said, when asked about Buehler. “I never had the opportunity to face him in the past, but just to see him and the electric stuff that he has is just unbelievable. He owned that mound when he was out there and it’s pretty amazing.”
Buehler didn’t have his best command on Monday, walking a season-high four batters, including three in the fourth. He came into the start having walked just three all season. But after a mound visit from pitching coach Mark Prior, Buehler locked it back in and was able to get out of the jam unscathed.
“Mark, that mound visit was a really good visit and just got him to go to his slider,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “I think, in that inning, he didn’t have a feel for the fastball or the cut fastball. That kind of reset him, and that’s an aggressive-swinging team and you’re thinking, ‘If he can get through the fifth inning,’ and he ends up going seven scoreless. Really good outing.”
Buehler also didn’t record a ton of swings and misses, finishing with just 12. But he was able to find it when he needed it, and his stuff was as good as it’s been all season. He struck out seven and allowed just one hit, a one-out infield single in the first inning by Josh Rojas.
It was the sixth time in eight starts that Buehler has allowed two or fewer runs in a game this season, lowering his season ERA to 2.98. He’s also the only Dodgers pitcher to toss six or more innings in all of his starts.
“I feel like I’ve been throwing the ball pretty well,” Buehler said. “Obviously, I’ve made a few too many mistakes and have given up a few too many home runs, so just trying to work on that and staying consistent. I feel OK with it right now. There are things I want to improve, but things I feel good about.”
Will Smith, Gavin Lux and Pujols provided enough run support to back up Buehler. Smith launched his fourth homer of the season, a solo shot off Madison Bumgarner in the second inning.
Pujols, who batted cleanup and went 1-for-4 in his Dodgers debut, delivered with an RBI single in the third. Lux added a much-needed insurance run in the eighth after the D-backs got on the board against Victor González in the top of the frame.
But as the Dodgers’ lineup waits to get fully healthy, a lot of the responsibility will fall on the starting pitchers. So far, they’ve risen to every challenge.
Buehler’s outing was a good representation of the entire rotation. It was the 24th quality start by a Dodger starter this season, the most by any staff in the Majors. And it marked the third time this season that a Dodgers starter has gone seven or more innings while also allowing no more than one hit. That’s just two shy of tying the franchise record, and it’s only May 17.
“Every time he takes the mound, we expect to win,” Roberts said. “He’s doing what we would expect.”
It was a day full of celebrations for the Dodgers. Roberts called having Pujols wearing a Dodgers uniform “surreal” and everyone seemed to enjoy seeing No. 55 at first base. Buehler finished it off with a stellar outing. And after not looking like themselves for about a month, the Dodgers are winning and are having fun again.