ST. LOUIS — Oh, to be young and throwing heat.
In a rematch between two of the best rookie pitchers in baseball, Walker Buehler was dominant. The Dodgers’ 24-year-old right-hander retired the first 13 batters in order and held the St. Louis Cardinals scoreless for eight innings as the Dodgers beat the Cardinals 3-0 on Friday night.
The second consecutive win in St. Louis gives the Dodgers and Cardinals matching records (81-67) and ties them for the second wild-card spot in the National League.
Buehler bested Cardinals rookie right-hander Jack Flaherty at Dodger Stadium last month as well, holding the Cardinals to three hits in seven scoreless innings. Flaherty, a Harvard-Westlake product, gave up a solo home run to Joc Pederson in the sixth inning after going 5-1/3 innings without allowing a hit. But the Dodgers lost in the ninth inning when Kenley Jansen gave up a home run to Paul DeJong.
This time, it was Buehler who took a no-hitter into the middle innings, a perfect game in fact.
He struck out five of the first 13 Cardinals – freezing Kolten Wong with a 99-mph fastball for a called third strike in the second inning – and didn’t give up a hit until DeJong singled to left with one out in the fifth. Harrison Bader chopped a grounder over Buehler’s head that went for a two-out infield single that same inning before Buehler went back to mowing down hitters.
He struck out the side in the sixth – this time freezing Matt Carpenter with a 98-mph called third strike – and pitched into the eighth inning of a start for the first time in his professional career.
The Dodgers again managed only a solo home run in six innings against Flaherty (a laser into the left-center field seats by Yasiel Puig in the second inning) and added an unearned run on a passed ball in the seventh.
The narrow margin for error didn’t bother Buehler. He didn’t walk a batter until the eighth inning and needed 12 pitches or fewer to retire the side in five of his first seven innings.
But he had to work in the eighth. He walked Kolten Wong to start the inning and pinch-hitter Jedd Gyorko, putting two on with two outs. With left-handed Matt Carpenter coming up, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had lefty Zac Rosscup and righty Dylan Floro warming in the bullpen. But he stuck with Buehler, allowing him to face Carpenter a fourth time.
Buehler got ahead in the count and his 104th pitch of the night was still traveling 99 mph – a fastball that missed outside. His 105th pitch was a curveball spiked into the dirt in front of home plate but Carpenter swung and missed to end the inning.
Puig hit his second home run of the game in the top of the ninth, giving closer Kenley Jansen a little breathing room.
It took Jansen 29 pitches to get the final three outs of Thursday’s win. He hit the first batter he faced Friday before closing out the win on 11 pitches.
More to come on this story.
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