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Some pitchers chase wins, saves or strikeouts.
Walker Buehler’s statistic of choice is innings pitched.
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So it was a big moment for the 27-year-old Los Angeles Dodgers ace when he walked off the mound Monday night after throwing nine superb innings, wrapping up his first career shutout in a 4-0 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“The guys I grew up watching did that,” Buehler said. “That was what it meant to be good.”
Buehler (2-1) tossed a three-hitter and Will Smith launched a solo homer for the Dodgers, who won for the 11th time in 13 games.
Buehler cruised most of the way, retiring 15 straight batters during a brilliant stretch from the fourth inning to the ninth. He walked none, hit one batter with a pitch and struck out 10, leaving the field to a standing ovation from the sizable contingent of Dodgers fans at Chase Field.
The right-hander threw 108 pitches, getting Christian Walker on a fly ball to center field for the final out. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Buehler told him he wasn’t coming out of the game as he left the field following the eighth inning.
It was another tough pitching decision for Roberts, who took some heat earlier this year when he pulled Clayton Kershaw after seven perfect innings against Minnesota. Roberts has said he doesn’t regret the Kershaw decision and he certainly doesn’t regret leaving Buehler in to finish his shutout.
“I trusted him,” Roberts said. “I believed him. He has an extra day before his next start, so everything lined up, made sense. He deserved it, he earned it and it was fun to watch him tonight.”
The Dodgers wasted little time taking a 2-0 advantage, which was plenty for Buehler. Leadoff hitter Mookie Betts walked to start the first, Freddie Freeman doubled and Trea Turner brought them both home with another double.
Max Muncy’s two-out double in the fifth scored Betts, pushing it to 3-0. Smith’s 425-foot shot into the left-center seats in the eighth made it 4-0. Smith and Freeman both finished with two hits.
Buehler’s dominance against Arizona came after a relatively slow start to the season by his lofty standards. The two-time All-Star had a 4.02 ERA through three starts before Monday.
A lot of opposing pitchers have found their groove against the D-backs’ lineup, which was 29th out of 30 teams with a .189 batting average coming into Monday’s games. Daulton Varsho, David Peralta and Walker had the team’s three hits and all were singles.
“Buehler had really good stuff,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “I thought we went out of the zone a few times, giving him a chance to look even better and more efficient. In those critical counts, we’ve got to be a little more stubborn.”
Arizona starter Merrill Kelly (1-1) took the loss despite pitching fairly well, giving up three runs over six innings. He permitted seven hits and two walks while striking out four.
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ARROYO SHOUT OUT
Buehler went to high school in Kentucky and watched a lot of Cincinnati Reds games. Bronson Arroyo was the Reds’ ace during a lot of those years, and he threw at least 200 innings in eight of nine seasons from 2005-13.
Arroyo’s durability started Buehler’s fascination with innings pitched. Buehler hit the 200-inning mark for the first time last season when he threw 207 1/3 innings.
“It’s just an important thing to me,” Buehler said.
Dodgers: RHP Andre Jackson was called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City. INF/OF Zach McKinstry was sent to Triple-A.
Diamondbacks: OF Jordan Luplow (strained right oblique) joined the team from the 10-day injured list and LHP Tyler Gilbert was promoted from Triple-A Reno. LHP Oliver Perez was designated for assignment and OF Jake McCarty was sent to Triple-A. Luplow made his season debut in the eighth.
The Diamondbacks send RHP Zach Davies (1-1, 5.02 ERA) to the mound to face Dodgers RHP Tony Gonsolin (1-0, 0.69) on Tuesday.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism