BY JILL PAINTER LOPEZ, Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Walker Buehler was looking like the answer to the Dodgers’ injury woes. Then he became just another problem.
Buehler was pulled from his start Friday night with rib soreness, and Los Angeles overcame another blow to its depleted pitching staff by hitting five home runs to beat the Atlanta Braves 7-3 on Friday night.
Buehler was hit in the ribs by a comebacker from Colorado’s Trevor Story on May 21, and Friday was his third start since then. But a problem was evident to manager Dave Roberts in the sixth inning when Buehler’s velocity dropped.
“Seemed like he wasn’t letting it go like he was earlier,” Roberts said. “For me, that was a big red flag.”
Yasmani Grandal went deep twice, hitting his 99th and 100th career home runs, and Joc Pederson, Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger also homered to help the Dodgers win their sixth in seven games despite a decimated rotation. They’re already without Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dennis Santana, and now maybe Buehler, too.
The Dodgers said Buehler was sent for Friday night, so he was unavailable for comment. Roberts said he had been getting treatment for the ribs issue the last few weeks.
The rookie right-hander was perfect through four innings and still cruising with one out in the sixth when Roberts and trainer Nathan Lucero went to the mound. Buehler said during a lengthy discussion that he was having difficulty breathing, and was pulled.
“You look at the first five innings, there were (9)6s, (9)7s and 98s,” Roberts said. “The velocity was there. The stuff was really good. It was that sixth inning he kind of hit a wall.”
Roberts hasn’t lost his sense of humor. Asked about the plethora of injuries, Roberts said: “If you’re a pitcher on this staff, heads up.”
Buehler (4-1) had just struck out Johan Camargo when Roberts and Lucero ran onto the field. Switch-pitcher Pat Venditte relieved Buehler.
It was a difficult thing to watch for the Dodgers pitching staff, but the bullpen came through, allowing a combined two runs over the final 3 2/3 innings to preserve Buehler’s win.
“It makes my stomach sick, to be honest you,” said Kenley Jansen, who pitched a scoreless ninth. “It was a crazy game. Thank God (Pat) Venditte and (Adam Liberatore) picked it up. Me coming in to close it out, that was great.”
Los Angeles’ injury woes have picked up steam the past couple days. Santana was scratched from a scheduled start in Pittsburgh on Thursday after getting injured warming up in the bullpen. Roberts had gone to the bullpen 16 times over the two games previous to Friday.
Pederson and Muncy hit back-to-back homers in the sixth, the fourth time this season LA has hit consecutive home runs.
Bellinger has homered in four straight games for the first time in his career.
Buehler allowed one run on two hits and struck out four. He’s been sensational for a starting rotation that’s desperately needed it.
Nick Markakis singled off Buehler in the fifth to break up a perfect game. Camargo later homered for the Braves, but the Dodgers bullpen pitched well.
“We thought maybe when they had to go to the bullpen a little early it would keep them off the mound and we’d have a chance to put something together, but they did a good job holding us and kept adding on,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
Both of Grandal’s home runs came off former teammate and batterymate Brandon McCarthy (5-3), who allowed four runs on five hits in 4 2/3 innings.
Pederson homered in the sixth inning, giving him four home runs in his last four games. Pederson has just seven home runs this season, six of them in June. Pederson’s home run chased McCarthy.
“It was three really terrible pitches to a team that’s not missing terrible pitches right now,” McCarthy said. “The home runs were earned and struck well. I feel like I’ve thrown pretty well, it just hasn’t all come together. Today was day I just chalk up to being a bad day.”
Chris Taylor pinch hit for Yasiel Puig in the sixth inning. Puig was picked off first in the first inning but stayed in the game after that.
Roberts called it an “in-house thing” and said Puig is fine and would be back in the lineup Saturday.
Braves: OF Ronald Acuna (knee, back) hit off a tee and was jogging in Atlanta on Friday. … RHP Julio Teheran (right thumb bruise) is expected to start throwing in the next day or two.
Dodgers: Hill (blister) will throw a four-inning sim game Saturday. He said he expects to be activated and pitch for the Dodgers next week if all goes well. … Santana (right rotator cuff strain) was placed on the 10-day disabled list. He had his right arm in a sling. … INF Justin Turner (soreness left wrist) was not in the lineup for the third time in last four games. He was available to pinch hit Friday. He could return to the lineup Saturday but is scheduled for Sunday. … Kershaw (back) played catch Friday … Maeda (right hip strain) threw a bullpen of nearly 40 pitches and could be back in the rotation next week.
Braves: RHP Anibal Sanchez (1-0, 2.16) had a quality start in his last outing against Washington, allowing two runs on two hits in seven innings, but he didn’t figure into the decision.
Dodgers: LHP Alex Wood (1-4, 4.48) had a rough outing in his last start, giving up six runs on five hits and walking three in his last start in Colorado.
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