SoCal breeze: Buehler K's 15 Padres in CG gem
LOS ANGELES -- Walker Buehler was as efficient as he was overpowering on Saturday night, a necessary combination to fire his second complete game, strike out 15 and then credit, among other things, lessons learned from protective pitch counts last year.
“Having 75 pitches and wanting to get [deep] into games kind of teaches you that stuff,” Buehler said after dazzling the Padres in a 4-1 Dodgers win. “A lot of people want to talk about pitch counts and things like that, but when you get restricted, I think you can learn some stuff, and I’ve tried to carry that over to this year. Luckily, I’m more efficient than years past.”
Buehler set an example for rookie tryouts Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin to emulate. He made 110 pitches, one fewer than his career high on June 21 when he struck out 16 Rockies in his first complete game.
“It’s huge,” he said of the complete game, “because it signifies doing my job, being efficient.”
Buehler joined Pedro Martinez and Doc Gooden as the only MLB pitchers with multiple starts of 15 strikeouts and no walks in the same season. Sandy Koufax (three times) is the only other Dodgers pitcher with two games of at least 15 strikeouts in the same season (three times). Buehler is 3-0 with a 0.82 ERA against San Diego.
Buehler’s fastball was lively as usual, while the slider was wipeout quality. Pinch-hitter Manuel Margot hit what Buehler said was his worst pitch of the night for a two-out home run in the eighth inning to ruin his bid for a first career shutout.
“A cement-mixer slider,” Buehler said. “Hat’s off to him.”
Buehler allowed five hits, no walks and showed the dominance that made him an All-Star. With 93 pitches through eight innings, manager Dave Roberts said there was no hesitation sending Buehler out for the ninth inning.
“Just looking at the way he was throwing the baseball, there was no stress, the delivery wasn’t compromised at all,” Roberts said. “He was getting ahead all night long. He had his way with a good lineup over there. It’s hard to imagine having more command than he did tonight. Was as dominant as [he] could be.”
Dominance? How about Buehler at Dodger Stadium? This year, he’s 5-0 at home with 86 strikeouts and four walks. In his career, he’s 9-3 with 174 strikeouts and 23 walks.
“Just the comfort and the fans, they’re pretty special,” said Buehler. “To me, that just says I need to get better on the road.”
Buehler opened the game by striking out the side on 12 pitches. Roberts said at that point, he sensed it would be a good night. Buehler, though, wasn’t sold.
“I’ve done that a few times and blown up,” he said. “It’s pitch by pitch, inning by inning. You get deeper in the game, you can start thinking [about] some of that stuff, but not the first inning.”