Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
Walker Buehler both made his 2020 debut and celebrated his 26th birthday on Tuesday, but by the end of the night it was hardly a footnote in the Los Angeles Dodgers defeating the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.
It was the first matchup between the teams since MLB found the Astros guilty of electronically stealing signs during their 2017 World Series season. The Dodgers hadn’t played in Houston since Game 5, which at the time was considered an all-time classic.
Buehler was not on the Dodgers’ World Series roster that year, and therefore put little stock in being the organization’s first pitcher to face the Astros. The focus instead was on beginning his season with a positive outing.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts considered five innings and 75 pitches a best-case scenario for Buehler. He appeared to be on his way to meeting that target, retiring 11 of the first 12 batters faced. But Buehler then labored in the fourth and failed to make it out of the inning.
“Fourth inning, I don’t want to say lost it, I just tried to make pitch and pulled it or pushed it. It’s a work in progress,” Buehler said. “I felt good with where my stuff was at, wish I would’ve gone a little bit deeper. Just a little bit of a spray.
“Your first outing, having not thrown a ton, some inconsistency is going to happen. I got some things to work on and we’ll be ready to go.”
Buehler’s ability to turn in quality outings is all the more imperative as the Dodgers are without Clayton Kershaw and Alex Wood. Kershaw may return from the injured list this weekend, but the club does not have a timetable for Wood to be activated.
Buehler was slow out of the gate last season, as he struggled through the first month before becoming one of the more dominant pitchers in baseball.
Turning up the heat
While tensions rose between the Dodgers and Astros, Buehler himself relayed to Roberts that there is a potential for an uptick on his fastball.
“He said he detected some stuff in his delivery to increase the velocity,” Roberts said, adding he though “the stuff was really good.”
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