All too familiar of late with the challenges presented by a bullpen game, the Los Angeles Dodgers will get a sense of normalcy Saturday when they host the Arizona Diamondbacks.
With Clayton Kershaw on the injured list and Trevor Bauer on leave, the Dodgers have been in scramble mode, with relief pitchers asked to cover nine-inning chunks on occasion. The latest came Friday when David Price emerged from his bullpen role to work the first three innings.
Price pitched well enough, putting six runners on base while not allowing a run, but the Dodgers fell 5-2 as the Diamondbacks ended a nine-game losing streak at Los Angeles. The Dodgers have lost four of their past five games overall.
A regular Dodgers starter in Walker Buehler (8-1, 2.49 ERA) will take the mound Saturday, looking to give the team as many innings as possible to let the relievers recharge. Buehler, though, will be entering off his shortest start of the season, a five-inning outing that resulted in a 5-4 loss at Miami.
The Marlins stole three bases off Buehler, giving the Diamondbacks a potential strategy for Saturday’s game. In a possible sign of things to come, Arizona’s Nick Ahmed had two steals against the Dodgers on Friday, to give him five on the season.
“I left some pitches in places where (the Marlins) could do some things with it,” Buehler said. “Obviously I let them steal a few bases that put them in a position to score and that’s on me. I’m not super happy about it.”
Buehler is 3-0 in 10 career starts against Arizona with a 2.47 ERA in 58 1/3 innings.
While the approaching All-Star break is coming at a perfect time for the weary Dodgers’ pitching staff, the club did get good news from an MRI on Kershaw’s left arm. His forearm soreness was confirmed as nothing more serious than inflammation.
“We’ll figure out in the second half when we’ll pencil him back in the rotation,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
The Diamondbacks will have left-hander Caleb Smith (2-5, 3.45) on the mound as he looks to continue the success he has found since returning to the rotation June 1. He was shifted to the bullpen early in the season.
Smith has a 3.62 ERA since that return, helped by better command and a refined changeup. Opponents are hitting .185 against him over his past seven starts, in span in which he has 40 strikeouts to 18 walks.
In five career appearances (three starts) against the Dodgers, Smith is 1-1 with a 2.65 ERA.
Smith was roughed up Sunday in a six-inning start against the San Francisco Giants, giving up a season-high five runs on five hits with one walk in six innings. But he will have a little momentum on his side after Arizona won Friday, following a run of 28 defeats in its previous 29 road games.
“The Dodgers, we know, are a very, very good baseball team,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said Friday. “But when we play the game our way we’re going to be in a good spot to do exactly what we want to do.”
–Field Level Media