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Buehler's gem, Urias' 1st save flaunt LA's future

@kengurnick
May 7, 2019

LOS ANGELES -- It was Walker Buehler with the win and Julio Urías with the save, the next generation of Dodgers pitching prodigies teaming up to beat the Braves on Monday night, 5-3. Buehler raised his record to 4-0 in the opener of the nine-game homestand, while Urias pitched a

LOS ANGELES -- It was Walker Buehler with the win and Julio Urías with the save, the next generation of Dodgers pitching prodigies teaming up to beat the Braves on Monday night, 5-3.

Buehler raised his record to 4-0 in the opener of the nine-game homestand, while Urias pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning and was credited with his first Major League save subbing for closer Kenley Jansen, who was unavailable after pitching the previous three days.

Box score

Buehler is 12-5 in his 30 career starts. No drafted Dodgers pitcher has won that many games in that few starts, including fellow first-rounders Clayton Kershaw, Bob Welch and Chad Billingsley.

In franchise history, only Kenta Maeda (16), Don Newcombe (15), Fernando Valenzuela (15), Hyun-Jin Ryu (14), Kaz Ishii (14) and Hideo Nomo (14) rank ahead of Buehler for wins in their first 30 Major League starts. Buehler is tied at 12 with Pedro Astacio.

Additionally, Buehler has limited the opposition to a .195 batting average in those 30 starts, sixth in MLB all-time behind Jose Fernandez (.181), Vida Blue (.181), Nomo (.185), Juan Guzman (.192) and Matt Harvey (.195).

Buehler was electric at times on Monday, striking out eight Braves in seven innings (none after the fourth), relying primarily on fastballs (topping out at 98.8 mph) and retiring 11 straight at one point. He made 100 pitches, 75 of them four-seam fastballs, with only three sliders.

“For me, it was fastball command,” said manager Dave Roberts. “Getting ahead with the fastball, as he did all night. That’s a very good lineup over there. There’s slug in there, there’s on-base, they don’t punch. And Walker navigated it very well.”

Buehler said the key to his success against the Braves was throwing a first-pitch strike in 18 of the first 22 plate appearances through the first six innings. It was only 1 of 4 in the seventh.

“Kind of figured some stuff out, mechanically. [I’ve] been searching for it,” Buehler said.

He allowed a two-run homer to Freddie Freeman in the sixth inning and a solo shot by Nick Markakis in the seventh, both on fastballs and both in the batter’s third plate appearance. That has proved to be Buehler’s one flaw after missing Spring Training, as opponents are 9-for-22 with three homers the third time through the order this season.

“The way I throw the ball, if I can get into advantage counts, it makes it tough on them,” Buehler said. “The two home runs kind of stink. Both were 2-1 counts, and that’s what I was avoiding most of the time.”

The Dodgers beat Atlanta’s Kevin Gausman, who started hours after receiving -- and appealing -- a five-game suspension for throwing at the Marlins’ Jose Urena on Friday. Gausman, drafted but unsigned by the Dodgers in 2010, was pitching on two days’ rest because he only threw 28 pitches before he was ejected in Miami.

Pedro Baez followed Buehler with a 1-2-3 eighth inning before passing the baton to the left-handed Urias, who was sent to the bullpen to pitch multiple innings but handled only one in this game. Roberts explained why the order wasn’t reversed.

“I had Pedro up in the seventh, and felt that I wanted Pedro in that spot against the bottom of the order,” said Roberts. “With [left-handed hitters] Freeman and Markakis, I felt it was a good matchup for Julio. Put it all together and that order made the most sense. I trust Julio in that big spot.”

The Braves saw three of the Dodgers’ hardest throwers. Buehler’s fastball averaged 96.3 mph and Baez and Urias averaged 96 mph. Fastballs accounted for 94 of the Dodgers’ 132 pitches thrown.

Offensively, Chris Taylor had two more hits (is 9-for-18 in May) and two RBIs. Cody Bellinger returned to the Dodgers’ lineup by defeating the shift with a bunt single that led to the first run.

“It’s fun to see Cody break out all the tricks in his bag,” Roberts said.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.