LOS ANGELES (AP) — Walker Buehler watched Clayton Kershaw strike out 11 in Seattle a night earlier. Inspired by the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner, Buehler shook off his own struggles and punched out the same number of batters against Colorado.
Buehler’s six sharp innings marked his best outing of the shortened season, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the slumping Rockies 5-1 on Friday night.
“Life is much better when those two guys are pitching the way they are,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
The Dodgers (20-8) earned their ninth victory in 10 games and became the first team in the majors to win 20 this season. Every player in the Los Angeles lineup got a hit except Austin Barnes, although the catcher had an RBI with a sacrifice fly in the sixth.
“We have so much talent. Kersh was pretty impressive and dominant, a hard guy to follow up,” Buehler said. “Any game he pitches, there’s stuff that all of us younger guys can pick up on. Reminding yourself, ‘Oh, that’s how it’s supposed to be done’ is a big thing.”
Buehler (1-0) gave up four hits on 92 pitches in his fifth start of the season and didn’t issue a walk in going past five innings for the first time. The right-hander was coming off his worst outing of the year. He gave up five runs (four earned) and six hits in 4 2/3 innings against the Angels last weekend.
“Each outing was getting better and this one just seemed like he was primed,” Roberts said.
Buehler turned a corner, challenging hitters and putting the ball in good spots. He retired the first 11 batters he faced. Charlie Blackmon, the majors’ leading hitter at .420, ripped a two-out single to center field in the fourth for the Rockies’ first hit.
“I felt better and felt more confident and locked in,” Buehler said. “I felt like myself.”
Buehler gave up three consecutive singles to right by Drew Butera, Raimel Tapia and Trevor Story in the sixth. Story’s shallow hit scored Butera for the Rockies’ lone run. Buehler then got Blackmon on a swinging strikeout before Joc Pederson’s running catch into the lower wall in right ended the inning and prevented the potential tying runs from scoring.
After an impressive start, the Rockies have lost a season-high five straight and 10 of 12 while dropping to .500. Jon Gray (1-3) gave up four runs and seven hits in 3 2/3 innings. The right-hander had two walks and no strikeouts.
“There’s a lot of damage they can do throughout the lineup,” Gray said. “They did a really good job of just batting the ball. There were a lot of gappers. If you’re not getting to that spot where you can really put them away, it’s going to be a long night.”
Cody Bellinger’s RBI double in the first gave the Dodgers a 1-0 lead.
Los Angeles added three runs in the fourth on Matt Beaty’s RBI single and Corey Seager’s two-run double down the right-field line.
Rockies: RHP Joe Harvey went on the 10-day injured list with a right elbow sprain.
Dodgers: C Will Smith (neck inflammation) had four at-bats and did some catching at the team’s alternate training site. He’ll do more of the same on Saturday and if all goes well return to the lineup Sunday.
ACING THE ROCKIES
Buehler had his third career double-digit strikeout game versus Colorado. His others came in September 2018 and June 2019. He improved to 5-2 with a 4.07 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 16 career games (12 starts) against the Rockies.
The Dodgers will honor Kobe and Gianna Bryant during pregame ceremonies Sunday, which would have been Bryant’s 42nd birthday. He and his daughter were killed in a helicopter crash in January. Fans aren’t allowed at Dodger Stadium, but they can watch on the team’s SportsNet LA channel.
Rockies: LHP Kyle Freeland (2-1, 2.56 ERA) has recorded a quality start in each of his first five starts, tied for the second-longest streak to begin a season in franchise history.
Dodgers: RHP Dustin May (1-1, 3.00) has faced the Rockies once. He threw a scoreless inning of relief last September.
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