Judging simply by his exhibition starts, Walker Buehler could be in for a rough 2021.
However, the Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander isn’t worried about his stats in March. He is looking ahead to the regular season, which for him begins Saturday when he takes the mound against the Colorado Rockies in Denver.
Colorado won the series opener 8-5 on Thursday before Los Angeles rebounded with an 11-6 win on Friday night.
Buehler, who went 1-2 with a 7.94 ERA (15 earned runs and six home runs allowed in 17 innings) over five spring training starts, is starting the third game of the season but has the stuff of an ace.
He is 24-9 in his short career after getting just one decision in eight starts last season — a win over the Rockies at Dodgers Stadium. He threw six innings of one-run ball and struck out 11 on Aug. 21.
Buehler is 5-2 with a 4.07 ERA (36 ER in 79 2/3 innings) in 16 career games (12 starts) against the Rockies. At Coors Field, he is 1-1 with a 5.12 ERA in seven games (five starts).
Most important, he got through spring training with no issues and is ready to go, even if it is in the thin air of Denver.
“You want to be successful, you want to go home confident with what you did,” Buehler said after one of his final spring training starts. “But at the end of the day, that’s what this is for, to build up. So we’ll take that as a positive, I guess, and try to work on some of the stuff that went wrong.”
Colorado will send veteran Jon Gray to the mound against Buehler. Gray has had an up-and-down career with the Rockies, showing signs of being an ace and at other times searching for consistency. He was the starter when Colorado played the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2017 National League wild-card game but was roughed up.
He began 2018 strong but faltered later in the year and was left of the NL Division Series roster when the Rockies played the Milwaukee Brewers. He bounced back in 2019 but had an injury-shortened 2020 and wasn’t sharp in his eight overall starts, losing his final outing on Sept. 1, a game Colorado lost 23-5 against the San Francisco Giants.
Colorado is hoping Gray shows the form he displayed two years ago because the rotation needs to be strong if the Rockies want to compete in a tough NL West.
“They have to be durable,” manager Bud Black said of his starters late in spring training. “That’s the thing that I think sticks out the most for any successful rotation. The ability to go to the post and log innings. Go out there and throw your six innings-plus and pitch well enough to stay out there.”
Gray has had some success against the Dodgers, most notably at Coors Field where he is 4-1 with a 3.48 ERA in nine starts against them. In a hitter-friendly park, he has held Los Angeles to a .249 batting average and a .413 slugging percentage.
In his career, he is 5-6 with a 4.62 ERA in 15 career starts against the Dodgers.
–Field Level Media