Diamondbacks trying to stay competitive vs. Dodgers
Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo briefed Colorado skipper Bud Black in a telephone conversation Sunday, as the Rockers were sweeping a three-game series at Chase Field.
"I just wanted to make sure he knew ... that even though the lineup may look like we weren't doing what we were supposed to do, and hold serve for him the best way we could, we were," Lovullo said.
"Our team is a little emotionally spent. I think we've all felt that for the past three weeks. We have two more games against a team we are contending, and we don't want to make anything easy on them."
It had worked before.
Arizona beat the NL Central-leading Cubs with four understudies starting last Wednesday but could not pull it off Monday, when the Dodgers took a 7-4 comeback victory to remain 1 1/2 games ahead of Colorado. The Rockies beat the Phillies' regular group 10-1 Monday.
The Dodgers got a homer and three RBIs from David Freese and two RBIs from Manny Machado, one on a double off the right-field fence in a three-run ninth inning, a ball Machado was so sure that was a homer that he eased his was out of the box. He took some ribbing from Matt Kemp in the clubhouse afterward.
"I have to hit the weight room, Matthew, I get it," Machado said, grinning.
"I thought it was way out. At least I got the RBI and we got the lead. Matthew is just trying to play with me. It's OK. I'll wear it."
The Dodgers have a little room to play with, and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he was not concerned what lineup opposing teams use, whether it is the Diamondbacks or the Rockies' remaining opponents, Philadelphia and Washington.
"For us, it's just about playing good baseball," Roberts said.
"They are men of high character. They are going to do their best to win a baseball game. We will do the same thing. You sign up to put this uniform on, your goal is to win every game, regardless of the situation.
Buehler, arguably, has been the ace of the staff for the last two months, since limiting Milwaukee to one run while striking out seven in seven innings on July 31 at Dodger Stadium. He suffered the loss in that game but has lost only one since.
He is 3-2 with a 1.58 ERA in his last 10 starts, with 79 strikeouts in 62 2/3 innings. Buehler tied his career high with nine strikeouts in an 8-0 victory in St. Louis on Sept. 14 and set his career high with 12 in his last outing Wednesday against Colorado, although he did not get a decision while giving two unearned runs in a 5-2 victory.
Buehler, a first-round pick in the 2015, made eight relief appearances as a rookie September call-up last year. He made his first career start April 21 this season and joined the rotation for good after the All-Star break.
"One part of it is, he's more comfortable being here a lot of the year and getting in a routine and not going up and down, not being in the 'pen," manager Dave Roberts said when talking about the strides Buehler has made this year. "Learning hitters. Having the rapport with his teammates.
"As far as the stuff, like many pitchers, when his fastball command is on, he's pretty much unhittable. And a lot of this year, that's what we've had. Now the curve ball, the slider, the change off of it has been lethal. It's two variables, comfort level and consistency and the pitch execution."
Buehler throws his 96-mph fastball about 60 percent of the time and works off that.
Koch is making his second spot start in place of Clay Bucholz, who was shut down for the rest of the season when he felt elbow pain while warming up for a scheduled start at Colorado on Sept. 13. Koch replaced him on very short notice that day and gave up four runs in three innings but followed that with four innings of scoreless relief in a loss to the Cubs on Sept. 18.
Koch made 12 starts early-season starts after first Taijuan Walker and then Robbie Ray went out with injuries and the Diamondbacks were 7-5 in that stretch, but he lost his spot in the rotation when Ray returned, and Buchholz pitched well. He has faced the Dodgers once this season, giving up three runs (two earned) in five innings in a no-decision in Arizona's 4-3 victory.