The club’s top prospect made his major league debut in 2017, but he was limited to a role as a late-season hard-throwing reliever, as the club was determined to keep his innings count low.
Buehler gave up eight runs in 9 1/3 innings in 2017, but four came in his second career outing when the moment seemed to overwhelm him. He finished the year giving up two runs over his final five innings, but was not added to the roster for the playoffs.
“September, obviously it was moving pretty quick for him,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, according to mlb.com. “It was a learning process. But I think spring training he showed really well. I love his four-pitch mix and I think he’s going to come here and pitch well.”
Buehler saw only four innings of action in Cactus League games this spring, giving up just one hit without allowing a run. He made more of a showing in minor-league camp, then went 1-0 with a 2.10 ERA in three starts for Triple-A Oklahoma City. In 13 innings, he had 16 strikeouts and four walks.
The Marlins come to Los Angeles after getting swept in a four-game series by the Milwaukee Brewers. Justin Bour drove in both runs but the Marlins struck out 11 times in a 4-2 loss on Sunday and lost seven of their last eight games, winning only at New York against the Yankees on Tuesday in that stretch.
While the Dodgers are going with a youngster in Monday’s series opener, the Marlins will go with something of a hot pitcher. Left-hander Jarlin Garcia (1-0, 0.86 ERA) has been impressive in his transition to a starting role.
Garcia’s victory came in Tuesday’s 9-1 win at Yankee Stadium, seeing his streak of 10 consecutive hitless innings end in a game where he worked around five walks. In 11 innings in the starting rotation, he has given up just one hit.
Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto isn’t about to make excuses for the club’s struggles, saying the field at Dodger Stadium on Monday is where the turnaround must begin.
“Nothing clicks unless you’re on the field,” Realmuto said Sunday, according to mlb.com. “It’s all about what you do in the batter’s box, what you’re doing on the mound. There’s not too much you can do to stop this ship until you go out there and perform and win games when the pressure is on the line.”
The Marlins head to Los Angeles facing a Dodgers team that is finally starting to play some quality baseball. The Dodgers have won five of their last six games, earning a sweep at San Diego and winning two of three against the Nationals over the weekend after Yasmani Grandal hit a two-run double, Cody Bellinger hit an RBI double and Corey Seager drove in the tiebreaking run in the seventh during a 4-3 win on Sunday.
The Dodgers are now 10-10, moving back to the .500 mark for the first time since they were 2-2 on April 1 when they split the opening four-game series of the season with the San Francisco Giants.
The Marlins will enter the three games at Dodger Stadium in last place in the NL East at 5-16, and are just 2-7 on the road. The two road victories are tied for the lowest in the major leagues.
San Francisco’s Brandon Belt had a 21-pitch at-bat in an epic showdown with Los Angeles Angels rookie pitcher Jaime Barria in the first inning Sunday, the most pitches faced since records began being kept in 1988. The previous high was 20, when Houston’s Ricky Gutierrez struck out against Cleveland’s Bartolo Colon on June 26, 1998, according to Retrosheet. Belt fouled off 11 straight pitches before flying out. Belt was greeted with high-fives when he returned to the dugout after his at-bat lasted 12 minutes, 52 seconds.
It took nine pitches for Belt to work the count full, as he fouled off five pitches in the process. He swung and missed just once.
Barria threw 49 pitches in the first inning but did not allow a run. He lasted just two innings, giving up two runs, and threw 77 pitches in the Giants’ 4-2 victory.
Elsewhere • White Sox officials say reliever Danny Farquhar remains in critical but stable condition after collapsing in the dugout Friday and suffering a brain hemorrhage. Manager Rick Renteria said Sunday the club is keeping updates brief out of respect for the family.
“The best thing for us to do would be to give them space,” Renteria said. “Let the medical staff do what they can do and then at the appropriate time, everybody will let us know when it’s OK to go ahead and reach out and go see him.”
• The Rockies put outfielder Carlos Gonzalez on the disabled list, retroactive to Thursday, with a sore hamstring. The team also announced that outfielder Gerardo Parra dropped his appeal and began serving a four-game suspension for being in a brawl against San Diego on April 11.
• Indians outfielder Bradley Zimmer (ankle), Orioles outfielder Trey Mancini (knee) and Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia (ankle) are out indefinitely.
• Diamondbacks third baseman Jake Lamb, who is on the disabled list because of a shoulder ailment, could rejoin the team Tuesday.
The series is the first in San Francisco since Giants reliever Hunter Strickland plunked Nationals star Bryce Harper with a pitch last May, triggering a brawl at the mound that resulted in the ejection of both players.
The Giants got the worst of the altercation, with slugging backup Michael Morse suffering a career-ending concussion in a collision with teammate Jeff Samardzija near the mound.
Stratton wasn’t with the Giants at the time, but he contributed one of the best-pitched games of his young career when the clubs met again in Washington in August.
Making just his third career start, the 27-year-old shut out the Nationals on five hits over 6 2/3 innings in a 4-2 win. He struck out 10.
It’s the only time he has faced Washington.
Stratton (1-1, 2.22) has won just four times since, and came close to a fifth when he limited Arizona to one run in seven innings in his last start on Wednesday. He did not, however, get a decision in the 4-3 win, during which he recorded eight strikeouts.
The Giants will be opening a 10-game homestand following a 10-game trip on which they went just 4-6. Statton started two of the four wins.
Stratton wasn’t the only Giants starter who pitched well on the trip. The club is coming off a series win against the Los Angeles Angels in which both Samardzija and Johnny Cueto took shutouts late into wins.
Strickland saved Sunday’s 4-2 win for Cueto, and afterward was asked about his thoughts of seeing Harper again.
“Win a series,” is all he would say.
In the Nationals, the Giants will be seeing a team coming off a high-profile series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, one that included a meeting on Sunday Night Baseball.
Washington lost two of three in the rematch of 2017 division winners, scoring a total of just eight runs on 21 hits in the three games, which ended with the Nationals stranding two in the top of the ninth of a 4-3 loss on Sunday.
Harper went 2-for-10 in the series, which the Nationals played without injured regulars Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon and Adam Eaton. They remain out.
The veteran has made 12 career starts against the Giants, going 5-4 with a 3.06 ERA.
He restored order to the Nationals-Giants series in San Francisco last season the day after the brawl, pitching 6 1/3 innings in a 6-3 win. It improved his record at AT&T Park to 2-3 with a 3.95 ERA in seven starts.
Gonzalez threw 97 pitches in beating the New York Mets 5-2 in his last start, allowing two runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings on Tuesday.
That pitch total wasn’t even five times the number Giants first baseman Brandon Belt saw in one historic at-bat Sunday against the Angels’ Jaime Barria in the first inning.
Belt fouled off 16 pitches and flied out on the 21st pitch of the at-bat, the most pitches in a Major League Baseball at-bat since 1988.
Afterward, Belt apologized.
“When I’m in the field, I hate it when a batter keeps fouling pitches off,” he insisted. “I’m like, ‘Dude, just put it in play. It’s not that hard. Let’s go.’ So, I basically had to apologize to everybody after that.”
Nolan Arenado was thrown out at the plate when he tried to score on a bases-loaded pitch that bounced to the backstop, allowing visiting Chicago to beat Colorado 9-7 Sunday. He initially was called safe but then was ruled out on a video review of the play.
Brandon Morrow bounced a pitch that ricocheted off catcher Willson Contreras’ mitt. Contreras grabbed it after it rebounded off the brick wall and threw a strike to Morrow, who tagged Arenado on the right ankle as his foot crossed the plate.
Earlier, Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant was hit on the head with a 96 mph pitch from German Marquez. The ball made a loud sound as it hit off the underside of the flap of Bryant’s helmet. Cubs spokesman Peter Chase said Bryant, who left the game after the incident in the first inning, passed tests and had no sign of a concussion. He had a cut above his left eye.
Chicago’s Javier Baez’s homered, doubled and drove in three runs.
Diamondbacks 4, Padres 2 • Patrick Corbin struck out 11 in six innings to improve to 4-0, and host Arizona became the first team in 15 years to win its first seven series of a season. Nick Ahmed hit a two-run homer for the Diamondbacks.
Dodgers 4, Nationals 3 • Corey Seager’s sacrifice fly in the seventh inning drove in Austin Barnes to break a 3-3 tie, helping Los Angeles win at home.
Phillies 3, Pirates 2 • Aaron Altherr’s RBI single in the bottom of the 11th won the game as Philadelphia swept a four-game series.
Brewers 4, Marlins 2 • Christian Yelich hit a two-run homer to help host Milwaukee sweep a four-game series.
Postponement • The Mets-Braves game set for Atlanta was rained out and is to be made up as part of a doubleheader May 28.
Athletics 4, Red Sox 1 • Khris Davis hit a three-run homer off David Price with two outs in the eighth inning to lift host Oakland. Boston, which was the victim of a no-hitter Saturday by Sean Manaea, has lost back-to-back games for the first time this year. It still has the best record in the majors, 17-4.
Astros 7, White Sox 1 • Jose Altuve hit a tiebreaking single in the seventh to boost visiting Houston, which won its sixth game in a row.
Yankees 5, Blue Jays 1 • Austin Romine’s two-run double helped New York win at home. Yankees prized prospect Gleyber Torres, an infielder, went 0 for four in his major-league debut.
Rays 8, Twins 6 • Carlos Gomez hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to win it for Tampa Bay.
Rangers 7, Mariners 4 • Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo homered to help Texas prevail at home.
Royals 8, Tigers 5 • Mike Moustakas’ three-run homer in the seventh fueled visiting Kansas City’s victory.
Indians 7, Orioles 3 • Jose Ramirez homered twice and Corey Kluber won his third straight start as Cleveland won on the road.
Giants 4, Angels 2 • Johnny Cueto threw six scoreless innings and Brandon Belt homered to boost visiting San Francisco.
Shohei Ohtani batted one-for-four with a single in his first game as a cleanup hitter as the Los Angeles Angels lost 4-2 to the San Francisco Giants at Angel Stadium on Sunday.
The two-way Japanese phenom did not pitch Sunday, but he did work out on the mound in the morning in preparation for his next Major League Baseball pitching start on Tuesday against the Houston Astros.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia inserted 23-year-old Ohtani as the fourth player in the batting order, which is called the cleanup spot.
“Shohei is swinging the bat very well,” Scioscia said. “We felt good having him up there in a key position. Anybody who’s hitting behind Mike Trout and Justin Upton, that’s an important spot for us. We thought he was ready for it, and we won’t hesitate again if the situation comes up to get him up there.”
Ohtani struck out in his first two at bats before hitting a single to right field in the sixth inning. He later grounded out to finish one-for-four.
Ohtani is expected to return to the mound on Tuesday against the defending champion Astros.
Ohtani was forced out of his start last Tuesday against the Boston Red Sox after developing a blister on one of his fingers.
In his first American baseball season, Ohtani is 2-1 with a 3.60 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 15 innings over three starts.
Albert Pujols has been gone seven years now, but as he closes in on 3,000 hits, a plateau he should reach in the next week, it is proper to offer some perspective on the former Cardinals star’s career.
When the Los Angeles Angels first baseman and designated hitter gets eight more hits to reach 3,000, he will be one of 32 to achieve that figure and, by the end of the year, he should rank in the top 20.
At 618 home runs, he ranks seventh and easily should move past Ken Griffey Jr. (630) into sixth place. At 3,000 hits and 600 homers, he will be only the fourth to scale those dual peaks, joining Willie Mays, Henry Aaron and Alex Rodriguez.
With 70 more RBIs this year, he will join Aaron, Babe Ruth and Rodriguez with 2,000 or more and is within 370 of passing Aaron, whose total is 2,297.
Only Aaron and Bonds have more than 600 doubles and 600 home runs besides Pujols, who already has passed Bonds in doubles and has tied Aaron with 624.
His 19 home runs in postseason play, including three in one World Series game in 2011, rank Pujols fourth all-time.
Not bad for a fat kid who was the Cardinals’ 13th round draft pick in 1999.
“Yeah, that worked out,” said John Mozeliak, who was conducting his first Cardinals draft that year.
Mozeliak, who has reached some heights of his own, now is president of baseball operations for the club. His first two picks in the 1999 draft were forgettable ones — pitchers Chance Caple of Texas A&M and Nick Stocks of Florida State. Neither logged an inning in the majors.
Outfielder-first baseman Chris Duncan, a teammate of Pujols on the 2006 World Series champions, was next but the only other players to have any real success were reliever Mike Crudale, the 24th pick, who had one good season for the Cardinals, and the 33rd pick, Bo Hart, who had one spectacular month.
Mozeliak said, “What I remember about running that draft was when we got past the 10th round, I got everybody to focus on holes or needs. I recall (player development director) Mike Jorgensen saying, ‘We could use a third baseman.’
Mozeliak said that scouting supervisor Mike Roberts was an advocate of Pujols, a player at Maple Woods Community College in Kansas City. Mozeliak had Roberts slot Pujols to be be drafted, which the Cardinals did.
That summer, Pujols played in the National Baseball Congress tournament in Wichita, Kan., and Mozeliak went there with Roberts and area scout Dave Karaff. “We watched Albert take infield and BP and there were things certainly to be excited about,” Mozeliak said.
“I flew to Little Rock the next day and ran into Jorgensen there and he asked me what I thought. I said, ‘This guy maybe has a chance to hit,’ but I remember saying that he might end up being someone we would want to make a catcher.”
At the time, Pujols weighed 240 pounds and not all of it was muscle, although Mozeliak got the green light from general manager Walt Jocketty to sign Pujols.
Fast forward to the Florida instructional league in 1999 and Pujols singled on a hard grounder up the middle in one at-bat and then followed it with a lined home run. “I remember Jorgy saying to me, ‘He’ll be just fine at third,’” said Mozeliak.
That decision worked out, fine, too, for the Cardinals because Mozeliak drafted forever catcher Yadier Molina the next year.
Manager Tony La Russa was among those who watched Pujols, then 19 years old, perform during the 1999 instructional league. In Jupiter for some organizational meetings, La Russa asked if there was some new talent at which he and his staff should look. The name Albert Pujols was offered up.
“He was kind of heavy. But just the way he stood at the plate, his bat speed … you say, ‘Well, let’s keep an eye on him,’” said La Russa.
In his first and only minor league season in 2000, Pujols hit .324 with 17 homers and 84 RBIs at low Class A Peoria before being moved to high Class A Potomac and then to Class AAA Memphis, where Pujols won the playoff championship with a home run.
Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan routinely would check with son Chris, who also was playing at Peoria that year. The reply, as related by La Russa, was “Dad, I’m doing all right. But you ought to see this guy Albert Pujols.”
La Russa also had watched Pujols in the Arizona Fall League that year and had noticed a trimmer version. “He realized he had to get himself into better shape,” said La Russa.
“He just looked different. And we said, ‘Let’s invite him to spring training.”
In the 2001 Cardinals camp, “he had probably the best camp of all our players,” said Mozeliak, “and had Bobby Bonilla not injured his hamstring, who knows what it looks like? But my guess is that he wouldn’t have been very long in the minors.”
La Russa said, “There was no conception those first few days in spring training that he would be ready to play on opening day in the big leagues.”
Pujols had come to camp as a third baseman but Memphis manager Gaylen Pitts said Pujols also could play left field.
“Sure enough, we put him there,” said La Russa. “A ball is hit in the gap and you say, ‘That’s a double.’ But he already was running when the guy was swinging and he catches the ball.”
As it turned out that year, Pujols would start 30 or more games for the Cardinals at third base, first base, left field and right field, providing a baseball first.
Pujols was well on his way to making the team anyway, said La Russa, whether Bonilla was hurt or not. That was a point his coaches and some veteran players kept hammering through to La Russa. And they weren’t the only ones. There was someone even closer to home.
Pujols made his mark in a late spring game against Atlanta in Orlando. La Russa’s father had come from Tampa to watch the phenom for the first time. He was in a front-row seat next to the Cardinals’ dugout but was disappointed — strongly disappointed — that Pujols wasn’t playing. The elder La Russa stood up and summoned Tony to meet him. Son explained that Pujols had played five or six games in a row and was getting a rest. Father gave La Russa a rebuke in Spanish, which he had done if Tony had “done something stupid” while growing up. This qualified, his dad said.
Pujols didn’t get into the game until the ninth inning. Down by a run, La Russa pinch hit Pujols against Atlanta righthander Matt Whiteside. Pujols homered over the scoreboard in left center field.
Before the game would end, some of the veterans, including Mark McGwire, were dressed and ready to take the early bus back to Jupiter. They stood behind La Russa in the dugout and McGwire gave La Russa, as he called it, “a forearm shiver to the back.”
“I told you,” said McGwire, “we need to take this guy. He’s got to be on our club.”
“So, now,” said La Russa, “I’m catching it from my dad at the beginning of the game and at the end of the game from Mark. One was emotionally painful and the other was physically painful.”
Pujols eventually would wind up as the Cardinals’ first baseman, with McGwire battling a bad back. He would hit more than .300 in 10 of his 11 years here, missing by just one point in his last season, 2011. That also was the only year he didn’t drive in 100 runs with the Cardinals . He had 99, but he had missed two weeks with left wrist fracture. He had 30 or more homers every year.
As the prospective newest 3,000 hit club member, Pujols won’t have much company in the near future. Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera is about two years away and Seattle’s Robinson Cano still needs roughly 600 more hits. No one else is remotely close.
Mozeliak said early on he had been struck by how Pujols carried himself “beyond his years and how diligent he was. Here’s someone who gets drafted in the 13th round — everybody would agree that that shouldn’t have happened — but he was one of the most driven players I’ve ever seen.”
After the 2011 season, the Angels blew the Cardinals and everyone else out of the water with a 10-year, $240 million deal for Pujols.
But Pujols well could be considered the most special Cardinal, at least as a position player, since Stan Musial. And that category might include only two players.
“There’s talent and then what you do with the talent,” said La Russa.
“There’s an old saying in sports — toughness trumps talent. If you’re talented and you’re not tough enough mentally and physically, then that talent will never be productive enough for you to be a championship-type player.
“But, if you have the combination where you have talent and toughness so that they’re equal, then you’ve got a potential Hall of Famer. For Albert to do what he did in his rookie year (37 homers, 130 RBIs, .329 average), it was obvious that he had the talent that you dream about.
“It’s what he did that next year. He comes to spring training in 2002 and he is working as hard as a rookie who was there for the first time.
“Albert was always about trying to win the game. He played defense. He ran the bases sometimes like he was The Invisible Man, but he knew when trying to take an extra base was worth it. I would always introduce him as ‘Albert P. Pujols.’ The ‘P’ stood for ‘Perfect.’ There’s nothing that you would want a ballplayer to be that he wasn’t.
“And then you add that makeup. Any kid who came to spring training, Albert would tell him when he was going to do his early drills, 7:45 or 8 in the morning, and Albert would work with the kid. Then you consider the Pujols Foundation and the marriage he has with Deidre … he’s perfect.”
La Russa was in Anaheim last week as the Boston Red Sox, for whom he works, were playing the Angels in a three-game series. At the start of the series, Pujols was 12 hits shy of 3,000 and he told La Russa “You know, if I go four for four every day, you could see it.”
Pujols got only two hits in the series, still leaving him 10 shy of 3,000.
So, not quite perfect. But plenty good enough for Cooperstown.
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