SAN FRANCISCO — Walker Buehler’s rocky season hit another pothole Friday night.
After an extended bullpen under many watchful eyes in Chicago earlier in the week, Buehler took the mound in San Francisco on Friday, looking to turn around the first extended slump of his career. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts called it “uncharted territory” for the Dodgers’ young right-hander.
Buehler continued to struggle, allowing three runs and leaving after just four innings with right elbow discomfort. The Dodgers went on to lose to the Giants, 7-2.
Coupled with his 2⅓-inning start against the New York Mets last weekend, it is only the second time in Buehler’s career he has failed to complete five innings in consecutive starts – he went 2⅔ and four innings in his final two starts of the 2020 season, tapering down for the postseason.
Over his past six starts, Buehler has allowed 22 runs in 28⅓ innings and opposing hitters are batting .311 (37 for 119) with six home runs.
It wasn’t all bad, though. After giving up two runs on three hits in the second inning, Buehler struck out the side in the third inning and five consecutive batters before Darin Ruf lined an 0-and-1 slider into the left field seats.
Buehler retired the next two batters but didn’t come back out for the fifth inning despite having thrown just 70 pitches.
But the Dodgers have other problems. A bullpen that was so reliable earlier in the season has started to show the strain of constant work.
Justin Bruihl replaced Buehler and turned a one-run deficit into a 6-2 Giants lead. It was Bruihl’s fielding as much as his pitching that was his downfall.
With one out and a runner on first, Bruihl slipped fielding Austin Slater’s dribbler in front of the mound, tried to throw from his seat and fired the ball down the right-field line. After striking out Mike Yastrzemski, the Dodgers intentionally walked the right-handed Wilmer Flores so Bruihl could face the left-handed Joc Pederson – a move that required no La Russian leap of logic.
‘Frenemy’ Pederson singled through the right side, driving in two runs. Ruf followed with another two-out hit to drive in the third run of the inning.
Ruf went deep off David Price in the eighth for his second home run of the game. Over their past 15 games, the Dodgers’ bullpen has an ERA of 4.88 with a 1.42 WHIP. Relievers have been charged with at least one run in 12 of those 15 games, multiple runs eight times.
The Dodgers’ offense, meanwhile, started out hot. Four of the first eight batters had hits and Chris Taylor drove in their first run with a double.
But they went 2 for 25 after that without a hit after the sixth inning. Gavin Lux led off the fifth with a solo home run. It was Lux’s first home run since April 13 (five games into the season). He had 146 at-bats in between homers.
More to come on this story.