LOS ANGELES — As the Dodgers have inched toward the top of the National League West standings for the past month, the arrival of Walker Buehler has made a sizable impact.
The rookie pitcher and top prospect has added a valuable arm to a starting rotation overrun with injuries.
In a 7-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Friday night, Buehler was about as effective as he’s been since his late April call-up.
The right-hander carried a perfect game into the fifth, setting down the first 12 batters he faced, a stretch that ended when Nick Markakis singled into center field to lead off the inning. Markakis scored on the next at-bat when Kurt Suzuki doubled, the lone run allowed by Buehler.
It was an effort that rivaled maybe his best start in a 4-0 victory over the San Diego Padres in Mexico City last month, when Buehler pitched six innings of a combined no-hitter.
Buehler left in the sixth inning Friday after a mound visit from Manager Dave Roberts and a team trainer. His last two fastballs fell in velocity to 95 mph, a slight decline. According to Brooks Baseball, his velocity has sat at an average of 97 mph this season. The club announced he was removed early due to soreness in his ribs, avoiding a more serious injury scare. Buehler, who took a line drive to his ribs a few starts ago, stayed in the dugout rather than enter the clubhouse immediately after leaving the mound.
Over 5-1/3 innings, Buehler allowed two hits and one run, while striking out four batters and walking none on a season-low 71 pitches.
With the win, the Dodgers (32-31) saw their record rise above .500 for the first time since April. They have won 16 of their last 21 games and moved into a three-way tie with the Colorado Rockies and San Francisco Giants for second place in the NL West, 1.5 games behind the division-leading Arizona Diamondbacks (33-29).
The Dodgers gave Buehler enough early insurance with plenty of power against Atlanta (36-27).
Catcher Yasmani Grandal drove a pair of solo home runs into center field in the second and fourth innings, landing in nearly identical spots and energizing much of the crowd of 47,262 at Dodger Stadium. His second blast gave the Dodgers a 3-0 lead.
Only eight previous times had Grandal homered in the same game.
Joc Pederson and Max Muncy, who batted atop the lineup Friday, followed with a pair of solo home runs with two outs in the fifth inning. For Pederson, it was his sixth home run in as many games.
The Dodgers finished with five solo home runs, capped by a 410-foot blast by first baseman Cody Bellinger into the right-field bleachers – his fourth home run in four games. They have hit 22 home runs in their past seven games.
Much of the damage came against former Dodger Brandon McCarthy, the veteran right-hander who was traded in the offseason as part of a salary dump.
In his return to Dodger Stadium, McCarthy allowed four earned runs on five hits in 4-2/3 innings, striking out four and walking one. He was removed from the game after surrendering the solo homer to Pederson.