Walker Buehler proved he and his fickle right index finger are playoff ready, Corey Seager homered and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Oakland Athletics 5-1 on Thursday night to earn their major league-leading 40th victory of the shortened 60-game season.
The Dodgers clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs that begin next week.
“If I looked back a couple months ago, forty was a number we were kind of shooting for,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
Buehler allowed one hit in four innings, struck out six and walked one in his first career appearance against the A’s.
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“His fastball, he had it going,” Oakland leadoff hitter Tommy La Stella said. "Throwing it for strikes, throwing the breaking ball well.”
Buehler returned earlier in the day after missing 12 games with a blister on his finger that landed him on the injured list twice in the last 4 1/2 weeks.
“My stuff was probably as good as it has been this year,” he said.
Buehler threw 65 pitches, enough to confirm his status as a starter in the NL wild-card playoff that the Dodgers will host. He had not pitched since Sept. 8 at Arizona, where he lasted just 2 2/3 innings before leaving with finger issues.
He called former Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill, who has a history of blisters.
“He’s a great resource. He’s definitely helped,” said Buehler, adding that Hill suggested treatment options and how to mentally handle the blister. “There's some weird parts about having a blister. Moving forward, I hope it's not a problem.”
Dylan Floro (3-0) got the victory, pitching one inning of relief and striking out one.
The A's struck out 16 times against six Dodgers pitchers.
“There’s really not a weak link in the chain,” said La Stella, who whiffed twice. “But that’s what you’d expect from a playoff team like they’ve been the last several years.”
Seager went deep — the Dodgers' 108th homer of the season — on the first pitch from Mike Fiers leading off the third for a 2-0 lead. Will Smith snapped an 0-for-10 skid with a RBI single in the first.
The Dodgers tacked on three more runs in the sixth when they sent eight batters to the plate. Reliever Jesus Luzardo gave up consecutive doubles to Will Smith and Cody Bellinger and walked AJ Pollock to load the bases. Pinch-hitter Kiké Hernández followed with a RBI single, Luzardo walked Chris Taylor to force in a run, and Seager's sacrifice fly to the warning track in center made it 5-0.
Oakland's lone run came on Sean Murphy's homer in the eighth.
Fiers (6-3) gave up two runs and five hits in five innings. The right-hander struck out three and walked one. Fiers exposed the Astros’ sign stealing scandal in 2017, when the Dodgers lost the World Series to Houston.
Athletics: RHP J.B. Wendelken went on the IL, although the team didn't say why. RHP James Kaprielian was recalled from the alternate site for the fourth time this season.
TAKING IT OUT ON THE CUTOUTS
Pollock got rid of two foul balls by firing them into the lower left field seats, with the cardboard cutouts serving as a shooting gallery of sorts.
Pollock turned around and blasted them into the seats. If it had been a carnival, he could have earned a stuffed animal with two more potshots.
Teammate Mookie Betts got a foul ball later in the fourth inning and threw it into the visiting bullpen behind him in right.
Athletics: RHP Chris Bassitt (5-2, 2.57 ERA) starts Friday against Seattle in the opener of a four-game set. He hasn't allowed a run in two of his last three starts and is 3-0 with a 0.46 ERA over that span.
Dodgers: LHP Clayton Kershaw (6-2, 2.25) starts Friday's opener at home against the Angels. He is 7-2 in 12 career starts against the Halos with a 2.45 ERA.
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