Walker Buehler, Dodgers chasing series win against Padres

(Photo courtesy of Kiyomio-USA TODAY Sports)

On Monday night, Walker Buehler returned to the Los Angeles Dodgers' rotation after nearly two years due to injury.

The right-handed pitcher will try for his first major league win since May 24, 2022, when he pitches in a three-game softball game against the Padres in San Diego on Sunday.

Considered the ace of Los Angeles' staff at the time of his injury, Buehler was able to gain a lot of perspective on his career during his extended absence. Buehler (0-0, 6.75 ERA) lasted only four innings in his return, instead of being disappointed with six hits and three runs, instead focusing on the big picture that night.

“Walking out of the bullpen was probably one of the coolest moments of my career,” he said. “It means a lot to me and my family to play here and contribute to the success of this organization. And to be able to come back here and feel that way is pretty cool in a way. .”

Buehler and the team were encouraged by his speed. Manager Dave Roberts tried to publicly downplay his expectations that the right-handed pitcher would perform as well as he did before his injury. However, Buehler maintained a consistent 96 mph after his return, peaking at nearly 98 mph and recording four strikeouts.

“His track record, his ability to compete and be a key part of the rotation and have him as a player in the dugout is impactful,” Roberts said.

Buehler has dominated San Diego in his previous 10 games, going 6-0 with a 1.49 ERA and striking out 76 batters in 66 2/3 innings. After James Paxton pitched six shutout innings on Saturday night in a 5-0 win with just four hits, no walks and four strikeouts, he's had a great performance to emulate.

The Padres will counter with right-hander Yu Darvish (2-1, 2.94), who has made a remarkable comeback since going on the disabled list in April. Darvish won both starts since his return, pitching five shutout innings against the Cincinnati Reds on April 30, and repeated that feat on Monday night in a 6-3 win over the Chicago Cubs.

Darvish will be making his third start of the year and 15th of his career against the Dodgers. He pitched 84 1/3 innings, going 4-5 with a 2.45 ERA, 97 strikeouts and only 23 walks, giving up a run average of just .172. He was not involved in making decisions in the two starts this season against his old club.

San Diego is 7-3 in its past 10 games, but manager Mike Shildt has concerns about his relievers other than closer Robert Suarez. On Saturday night, the bullpen took over a 1-0 run from starting pitcher Matt Waldron in the sixth inning, issuing a two-out walk before Teoscar Hernandez's grand slam for a 5-0 loss.

“The most troublesome thing is the walks,” Shildt said. “You start the sixth inning with a walk, and then you get a few walks (from the bullpen). Home runs are going to happen, but if you put yourself in a dangerous situation with a walk, you're putting yourself in big trouble.”

–Field level media

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