PHILADELPHIA -- The Dodgers' reliance on rookie arms like Walker Buehler and Caleb Ferguson was their undoing in a showdown series against the first-place Phillies, who won Wednesday's series rubber match, 7-3, at Citizens Bank Park.The Dodgers feel they need Buehler so much that manager Dave Roberts said the rookie
PHILADELPHIA -- The Dodgers' reliance on rookie arms like Walker Buehler and Caleb Ferguson was their undoing in a showdown series against the first-place Phillies, who won Wednesday's series rubber match, 7-3, at Citizens Bank Park.
The Dodgers feel they need Buehler so much that manager Dave Roberts said the rookie is in the rotation to stay the rest of the way -- no more of the yo-yoing that has made his season an unpredictable adventure.
"Things can change, but the thing is, with Walker, we're very synced up with understanding we need him through the season and into October," said Roberts. "He gave us a chance to win. For us going forward, yeah, we all believe we're better when he's with us. He's a special player and his health is first and foremost for all of us. It's not an exact science. I just love the compete."
The "compete" from Buehler on Wednesday wasn't enough for the Dodgers, although they got more than expected in relief from Ferguson. Buehler didn't get out of the fifth inning and took the loss, while Ferguson threw two perfect frames less than a day after he wasn't allowed to pitch in Tuesday night's marathon, when utility man Enrique Hernandez took the loss.
Buehler has been on a wild ride that included two stints on the disabled list for fractured ribs and repeated options to the Minor Leagues to hold down the innings count on his surgically repaired elbow. He's now in a six-man rotation, the six-man part being temporary -- but apparently, Buehler's spot in it isn't.
Buehler was recalled to make this start on 11 days rest. He was charged with five runs on five hits and a walk, with five strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. His ERA has jumped from 2.63 to 3.92 in his past three appearances, one in relief.
"I wouldn't have scripted it that way if I was making the master plan," Buehler said of his circuitous season. "I'm not the first guy to go through it, not the last. I've got to pitch better when I'm here. In the fifth inning, I can't let it spiral like that."
Buehler's outing began with a 13-pitch strikeout of Andrew Knapp.
"That set the tone for them," Roberts said, of the high pitch count that led to Buehler's early departure on a day when the Dodgers desperately needed the starter to go deeper. "After the first inning, Walker really settled down."
Even with the loss, the Dodgers maintained a half-game lead for first place in the NL West, as Arizona lost against the Cubs. But the Dodgers dropped a pair of games to a team they could face in October.
"They beat us," said Roberts. "We got beat this series. I don't think we laid down. They got the big hits when they needed to. That's the difference in this series."
That included the Tuesday night debacle, in which Roberts bypassed using Ferguson because the rookie had thrown 50 pitches in three innings on Sunday. But 15 hours later, Roberts let Ferguson go two innings.
"Caleb is really coming of age and it's really fun to watch," said Roberts. "We gave him the chance with the double-switch for a second inning, to keep the game close. In this park, crazy things can happen offensively, and we've been taxed."
Ferguson is now the second lefty in the bullpen, at least until a starter is demoted. Scott Alexander, the main lefty, was used early by Roberts, and it didn't work out for Los Angeles. He took over for Buehler and allowed a three-run triple to Carlos Santana, a former Dodgers farmhand traded 10 Trade Deadlines ago for Casey Blake.
The current Dodgers management, fresh off a 5-for-1 deal to snag Manny Machado, is reportedly on the prowl for more relief help before next week's non-waiver Trade Deadline. But they didn't lose any of their top three prospects in the Machado deal and -- with relievers Brad Hand, Jeurys Familia and Zach Britton off the board -- aren't likely to next week, no matter whom they target.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Roberts was counting on Alexander to bail out Buehler of the fifth inning mess against the Odubel Herrera, whom he walked, and Santana, who tripled in three.
"To go with our best guy, Scott, to get the left-on-left matchup [with Herrera], and I still liked him against Santana," said Roberts. "So, we get one out there, it's a different ballgame. It didn't work out for us today. You've got to give credit to the Phillies."
With Yasiel Puig expected to rejoin the club in Atlanta, Joc Pederson went 8-for-15 in the series with three doubles, one home run, two RBIs, a walk and five runs scored in the series. He also made a stellar leaping catch in left in the sixth inning on Wednesday.
HE SAID IT
"I kind of almost feel like I let the team down a little bit. My job is to pitch, and I didn't last night. I also understood why: I threw 50 pitches and took one day [off]. I'm still young. Let's be smart about it. I told them I'm good to throw, whatever you need, but [Roberts] told me before the game I was down. I was begging in the bullpen, 'Let me throw!'" -- Ferguson
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Scott Kingery hit his fifth home run of the season and first since June 29 in the fifth inning. The solo shot gave the Phillies a one-run lead. It appeared a fan might have reached over the wall to grab a ball that wouldn't have gone out, but a crew chief review confirmed the home run call.
After nearly appearing in relief during Tuesday night's marathon, Rich Hill returns on Thursday as a starter to open the series with the Braves against Anibal Sanchez in a 4:35 p.m. PT game at SunTrust Park. Hill is coming off a solid six-inning, one-run start in Milwaukee with nine strikeouts.
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.