Real or not? Walker Buehler blazes trail in first Dodgers start

The New York Yankees had their much-anticipated debut on Sunday, with Gleyber Torres starting at second base against the Toronto Blue Jays. On Monday it was the Los Angeles Dodgers’ turn, with Walker Buehler making his first career start in a game against the Miami Marlins at Dodger Stadium.

Buehler was called up late last season after being shifted to the bullpen in the minors, with the hope being he could be a dominant multi-inning option during the Dodgers’ postseason quest. However, that proved premature, as Buehler was slow to adapt to the role and struggled with his command. He posted a 7.71 ERA over 9⅓ innings with eight walks. He was not on the postseason roster.

On Monday, Buehler worked his way through a shaky first inning by striking out J.B. Shuck with the bases loaded to end the frame. Then he rolled.

Buehler finished with five strikeouts over five scoreless innings while walking three. He was clearly pumped up for the outing.

According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Buehler threw eight pitches of at least 99 mph during his first two innings.

That’s filthy. There are 16 teams that have thrown fewer pitches of 99 mph or higher this season. The only other pitchers to throw that many pitches that fast in their first two innings this season were the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard and the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani.

According to Statcast, Buehler averaged 96.8 mph on 42 four-seamers and 96.1 on 20 two-seamers. The Marlins had eight groundouts against him and just one flyout.

Yes, it was the Marlins. Yes, there were the three walks. Yes, Buehler went only five innings, although, in the non-Kershaw class, that’s practically the Dodgers’ version of a complete game these days. But if you’re a Dodgers fan, you have to be excited by what you saw from Buehler on Monday.

Do the Astros have a pitcher whisperer? The Angels beat the Astros 2-0 in a terrific series opener of what should be a very interesting early season series between the two leading contenders in the AL West. Stating it like that probably creates a false equivalency between the teams, because the Astros are the defending champs and may be even better this season. Still, it’s a good matchup.

Tyler Skaggs outdueled Gerrit Cole by tossing seven scoreless innings. Cole took his first loss with the Astros. Nevertheless, it was another dominant outing for the former Pirate: two runs, four hits, eight strikeouts over seven innings. His ERA actually went up — from 0.96 to 1.29. That drops him to fourth in the American League, behind teammates Charlie Morton and Justin Verlander, as well as Oakland’s Sean Manaea.

Cole leads the AL in strikeouts with 49. According to Elias, that puts him in some rare territory.

Most strikeouts, first five games with team

1999 Randy Johnson 55 Diamondbacks
2017 Chris Sale 52 Red Sox
1998 Pedro Martínez 51 Red Sox
1955 Herb Score 50 Indians
2018 Gerrit Cole 49 Astros
1989 Nolan Ryan 49 Rangers
(since 1900)

The work the Astros have done with veteran starters continues to be amazing, whether credit goes to organizational processes, cutting-edge analytics or, especially, the work of pitching coach Brent Strom. In addition to Cole, consider Morton’s rise from a low-rotation finesse starter for the Pirates to a fire-balling ace in Houston. Morton throws harder than he ever has, and last season, at age 33, he struck out 37 more batters than he ever had before. This season, he has been even better.

Heck, even Verlander, future Hall of Famer that he is, has been better for the Astros than he was in his final couple of years for the Tigers. Strom, like Houston’s other coaches, isn’t allowed to talk to the media. Maybe someday he’ll write a book to let us know how he has pulled off this wizardry.

It was immaculate. The Orioles’ Kevin Gausman, facing the Indians, struck out the side on nine pitches in the seventh inning, a feat known as an immaculate inning for self-explanatory reasons. If you were watching the game and didn’t feel like Gausman was too pumped up about it, it’s because he didn’t realize what he had just done.

“I didn’t realize it until I got in the dugout,” Gausman told ESPN’s Eddie Matz. “The guys were a little more pumped up than they would normally be, and they told me I tied major-league history or something.”

Gausman added that he also recorded an immaculate inning as a sophomore at Kentucky in 2012.

Immaculate innings used to be a much bigger deal than they are now, in the days of soaring strikeout rates. Last season, there were eight of them. Is that a lot? Well, take a look at this chart of immaculate innings by decade and draw your own conclusions:

IMMACULATE INNINGS BY DECADE

pre-1900: 1

1900s: 1

1910s: 1

1920s: 5

1930s: 0

1940s: 0

1950s: 3

1960s: 8

1970s: 8

1980s: 5

1990s: 18

2000s: 15

2010s: 25

Source: baseball-almanac.com

There have been 90 immaculate innings in recorded history, with 58 of them (64 percent) coming since 1990. And the eight such innings last season were as many as we had in any single decade before the 1990s.

Crazy.

“But it’s tough to do,” Gausman said. “Everything’s got to be perfect. Just trying to live one pitch at a time, next thing you know, three K’s later and nine pitches, pretty cool. But we still lost the game.”

Oh yes, Gausman lost to the wickedly tough Carlos Carrasco in a pretty good pitcher’s duel, with Cleveland winning 2-1. Carrasco improved to 4-0 on the season.

Cavnar takes the mic. Back in 1993, former ESPN anchor Gayle Gardner became the first female announcer to do play-by-play of a major league telecast. That was 25 years ago. On Monday, Jenny Cavnar followed in Gardner’s footsteps by calling Colorado’s game against San Diego.

Here at ESPN, we’re all extremely proud of the work that Jessica Mendoza does in the booth. And every Yankees fan is familiar with the work done by Suzyn Waldman on radio. Still, the fact that in 2018 the list remains so short shows that there is a long way to go.

Every year more and more talented young women enter the industry. You see them in every clubhouse before and after every game, and in press boxes all across the land. Writers. Television journalists. It’s inevitable that more women will make their way to the broadcast booth as well, and baseball will be better for it.

The team player. The White Sox called up swingman Chris Beck on Monday to take the roster spot of starter Miguel Gonzalez, who was put on the disabled list because of shoulder discomfort. No, that’s not really the kind of transaction to send one’s heart aflutter. But I mark it because Beck seemed awfully happy to be back in a big league clubhouse.

When asked what role he thought White Sox manager Rick Renteria might use him in, Beck said, “They could ask me to shine shoes here and I’d be ready to go.”

Meanwhile, out on the field, you think the White Sox were happy to see the Astros leave town? After being outscored 27-2 in three games over the weekend, the first seven White Sox banged out hits off Seattle’s Mike Leake, leading to a five-run first inning. The last team to start a game with seven straight hits was the Colorado Rockies, who did it against the Dodgers on Sept. 17, 2014.

The White Sox went on to win 10-4 to snap a seven-game losing streak, with Yoan Moncada coming up a single shy of the cycle and Jose Abreu recording his 12th career multi-homer game. And Beck? Not only did he get into the game, but he recorded a highly unconventional save that should, hopefully, keep him off shoe-shine duty.

Meanwhile, the Mariners did a very classy thing before the contest.

One of the teams that ailing White Sox pitcher Danny Farquhar used to play for — the Seattle Mariners — begin a series tonight in Chicago against Farquhar’s White Sox. This Farquhar/Mariners Jersey is hanging in Seattle’s dugout at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Bradford Doolittle, ESPN Staff Writer ago

According the White Sox, pitcher Danny Farquhar is “progressing well” after undergoing surgery on Saturday to address a brain aneurysm.

www.espn.com – MLB

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