In what wound up a footnote in an instant classic game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres, Walker Buehler pitched exactly six innings for the third time in as many starts on Friday.
It’s a welcomed development for Buehler, who prior to this season had begun each campaign still stretching out and sorting through some mechanical issues after a slow ramp-up in Spring Training. Buehler changed his offseason program to keep his arm active and has continued to reap the benefits.
“It was kind of my first normal spring since I’ve been here. I enjoyed it, liked kind of being built up and trying to take some innings early,” he said.
Though the Dodgers have won each of Buehler’s three starts and his ERA is at 2.00, there are immediate areas of improvement he has identified.
“I think our goals are more than six innings and I would like to start striking some guys out. We all have our little things, but definitely pleased with where I’m at so far,” Buehler explained.
The right-hander has fanned four batters in every outing, with the 6.0 strikeouts per nine innings well below his career average of 10.1 per nine. “I’m getting ahead of guys, it’s just the two-strike breaking balls have been too over the plate,” Buehler noted.
“Professional hitters, with two strikes, if you throw a breaking ball, they’re going to hit it. And a lot of times they’re going to hit it and get a base hit. I think that’s the focus right now. Again, kind of the goal is to put up zeros and keep trying to do that.”
On top of that, opponents are barreling up Buehler’s pitches at a 10.5% rate, which is more than double his career 4.8% average. “Just kind of is what it is at this point. The velocity the first couple outings was down,” Buehler said.
“I think it was a little bit up [Friday] night, which was nice. I think we’re always kind of working through some mechanical thing at some point. I don’t think anybody is finished all the time. Working on a few things, trying to get the ball to jump out of my hand a little bit better.
“I think it was [Friday] night, so keep working with that stuff. The goal is to not let guys score, and so far I’ve been pretty pleased with that part of it. Now it’s kind of the other stuff. We’ll figure it out.”
Buehler part of dominant Dodgers rotation
In addition to production from a deep lineup, the Dodgers have relied on strong performances from their starting rotation as a whole. “There’s a selfish part of it, like we all want to be successful and be good,” Buehler said.
“Just try and kind of ride the momentum of the guys before you and try to pass that on to the next guy. We’ve had this a few times when Ryu was really rolling and Kersh was rolling, Rich. It was a collection of talented guys and this is another iteration of that.
“It’s a fun group and fun group to be a part of.”
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