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LA makes Buehler (16 K's!) a walk-off winner

@kengurnick
June 22, 2019

LOS ANGELES -- Matt Beaty was optioned to Triple-A on Thursday, so it was quite an achievement that he slugged a walk-off two-run home run with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning Friday night at Dodger Stadium. And, he wasn’t even the star of the game. •

LOS ANGELES -- Matt Beaty was optioned to Triple-A on Thursday, so it was quite an achievement that he slugged a walk-off two-run home run with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning Friday night at Dodger Stadium. And, he wasn’t even the star of the game.

Box score

That would be Walker Buehler, whose 16 strikeouts were a personal high at any level and the most in the National League this year, to go with his first complete game, as the Dodgers beat the Rockies, 4-2, in a thrilling pitching rematch of last year’s Game 163 against German Marquez.

“Spectacular,” said Justin Turner, who watched from the clubhouse after his fourth-inning ejection. “That was one of the most dominant pitching performances I’ve seen, other than Clayton [Kershaw]’s no-hitter five years ago. That was special.”

This special: according to STATS, Buehler is the only pitcher in Dodgers history with more than 15 strikeouts and no walks in a game since the mound was moved to its current distance in 1893.

Buehler allowed three hits, two of them game-tying homers by the two best hitters in Colorado’s lineup -- Nolan Arenado in the fourth inning, Charlie Blackmon in the sixth. Arenado’s snapped Buehler scoreless-innings streak at 20.

“Got some calls, got some bad swings in some counts and just trying to throw strikes and good things happen,” said Buehler. “Arenado and Blackmon hit the two worst pitches of the night. But pretty good night for us.”

Buehler has upped his pregame video preparation, and in four June starts, he’s struck out 42 with one walk. This was the first time, however, manager Dave Roberts let him get into the ninth inning.

“Checking another box for me,” Buehler said. “I want to eat innings. I want to throw 200 innings. Thanks to Doc for letting me go back out there.”

The tied score created an extra level of ninth-inning drama in the duel with Marquez, because as well as Buehler pitched, he was looking at a spectacular no-decision. But Max Muncy battled for a two-out 3-2 walk from Jairo Diaz to set the stage for Beaty, the rookie who was technically sent down on Thursday when the Dodgers brought up a pair of relievers to bail out an overused bullpen.

Beaty never left Los Angeles for the Minor Leagues, though, and he was called back when the Dodgers placed Josh Sborz, one of those promoted relievers, on the injured list with a sore lower back.

“He wasn’t supposed to be here, but things happen in baseball,” Roberts said of Beaty. “He’s a dirtbag, a grinder and a tough player and we love that.”

Five innings after Cody Bellinger slugged his 25th home run, Beaty rocketed a 1-0 fastball over the center-field fence to win it for Buehler, who is 8-1 with a 2.96 ERA and one of many Dodgers pitchers deserving of an All-Star berth next month.

“I just can’t picture a pitcher dominating a really good lineup like he did tonight, from the first throw, all 111 pitches had conviction,” said Roberts. “He had no stress, didn’t pitch out of the stretch until the ninth inning. Changed locations, kept them honest inside. And he wanted that ninth inning.”

Buehler’s 16th strikeout victim was Arenado to end the top of the ninth.

“He’s one of the best players in this game and you don’t become successful in this game unless you can get those guys out,” said Buehler. “He got me earlier in the game and it all kind of adds fuel. But I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”

“To see him finish an MVP-type player in Arenado, the players fed off of it, the fans fed off of it,” said Roberts. “Like I said, we have a lot of aces and he proved that again today.”

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