Dodgers Get a Glimpse of the Future in Walker Buehler’s First Start

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 23: Walker Buehler
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 23: Walker Buehler /

After a difficult 4-9 stretch to start the 2018 season, the Dodgers won seven of eight games entering action Tuesday night, the lone loss coming to the Washington Nationals in what was the highly anticipated matchup of Cy Young award winners, Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw.

Scherzer and Kershaw are arguably the two greatest pitchers of this generation, and although the game’s final score of 5-2 was not indicative of this, in all likelihood they will once again be battling it out at the end of the season when voters cast their ballots for this year’s Cy Young.

But on Monday night, we might just have seen a glimpse of what the next generation has in store.

The atmosphere couldn’t have been much different than it was on Friday night. Instead of a clash with the Washington Nationals, a team that the Dodgers have battled in recent postseason play, a team that could very well stand between the Dodgers and a return to the World Series this year, a team composed of All-Stars and MVP candidates, the Dodgers were faced with the rag-tag remnants of the latest Miami Marlins fire-sale.

One of the few bright spots for the Marlins this year has been Monday night’s starter, Jarlin García. The young southpaw had a rather pedestrian 3.68 ERA throughout his minor league career, but after pitching out of the bullpen last year as a rookie with the Marlins, he has been brilliant in the early going this year, primarily as a starter, with the second-best ERA in the big leagues.

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Opposing García, and making his major league debut as a starter for the Dodgers, was their number one prospect, Walker Buehler. Buehler was the Dodger’s first pick in the draft back in 2015, and was ranked the number 12 best prospect in all of baseball on MLB Pipeline’s 2018 Top 100 prospect list. Considered by many as a candidate for the Dodgers third consecutive rookie of the year should he get enough innings, Buehler got the call from the minors after Rich Hill was placed on the disabled list last week.

Despite their limited experience and limited innings, García and Buehler’s was the better pitching duel.  Although neither pitcher factored in the decision, the only run that scored with either of them on the mound came on a Kiké Hernández solo shot giving the Dodgers a 1-0 lead. It didn’t look so good for Buehler and the Dodgers in the first inning, however. Possibly hyped about his first big league start, Buehler gave up two first-inning singles on hanging sliders, followed by a two-out walk to load the bases.

But carbon, under intense pressure and heat, forms diamonds.  Buehler struck out right fielder J.B. Shuck to end the threat, and then continued to pressure the Marlins with some heat of his own, striking out the next two batters he faced in the top of the second on six pitches, hitting 100 mph on the radar gun and consistently firing pitches in the high 90s on his way to striking out five in five innings of work.

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Buehler did not end up with the win, an eighth-inning error led to a game-tying run for the Marlins before the Dodgers took the lead back for good in the bottom of the eighth, but he displayed the mettle it takes to be a potentially dominant pitcher in this league for years to come.