February 3, 2023

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Consistency making Betts, Gonsolin LA's early MVPs

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PHOENIX — Dodgers superstar Mookie Betts has said he tries to make history every time he steps up to the plate. Over the last month, Betts has done a solid job of accomplishing that goal.

After a slow start to the season, Betts has responded by delivering one of the best months of his career. He added to his ridiculous May by launching a leadoff homer, his 14th of the season and 11th of the month, in the Dodgers’ 3-2 win over the D-backs on Saturday at Chase Field.

“He only got two hits tonight, so it was kind of a slow night for Mookie,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts joked. “He’s been fantastic.”

Betts, who now has 32 career leadoff homers, continues to climb up the leaderboards for multiple Dodgers franchise records. He has now scored 49 runs through 44 games, one shy of tying Babe Herman for the franchise record through 45 games. Betts has also scored at least one run in 15 consecutive starts, and the Dodgers improved to 27-5 when he crosses the plate.

With his 11 homers this month, Betts is just one shy of tying Roy Campanella for the franchise record in the month of May. His 20 extra-base hits this month tie him for second all time in May in franchise history, trailing only Jackie Robinson, who had 21 extra-base hits in May 1949.

The Dodgers have won 11 of their last 13, and it’s been mostly Betts leading the charge. Trea Turner and Will Smith each added an RBI and Justin Turner went 4-for-4 to round out the Dodgers’ offensive attack against the D-backs on Saturday.

On the mound, however, the Dodgers have unexpectedly leaned on right-hander Tony Gonsolin, who continues to be the biggest pleasant surprise of the season. Gonsolin continued his impressive start, allowing two runs on four hits and striking out seven over six innings of work.

In the sixth, Roberts left Gonsolin in the game to face the middle of the D-backs’ lineup for the third time. Gonsolin responded by retiring the side in order, including strikeouts against Pavin Smith and Christian Walker.

“He’s just understanding how to navigate lineups now,” Roberts said. “Even in that last hitter, there was a 95 [mph] in there, so it’s not like he’s running out of gas. There’s still more in there, which is great.”

Following his third consecutive quality start — the first time he accomplished the feat in his career — Gonsolin now leads the Dodgers with a 1.80 ERA and with 44 strikeouts. His 45 innings are third on the team behind Walker Buehler (52 2/3) and Julio Urías (47).

The difference, however, is that the Dodgers came into the season knowing that Buehler and Urías were going to lead the rotation. Gonsolin had to battle for a spot in the rotation during Spring Training, but he has run away with the opportunity.

“Just kind of going into Spring Training in a good spot, going through outings and feeling good,” Gonsolin said, when asked about the key to his success this season. “And just having the confidence that I’ve earned that spot.”

Surviving the first two months of the season was key for the Dodgers. They have a handful of pitchers still on the injured list that are expected to help during the second half of the season. Their survival mode was only amplified once Andrew Heaney and Clayton Kershaw went down with injury.

The Dodgers needed someone to step up. So far, Gonsolin has answered the bell in a big way.

“Tony has been what we’ve needed,” Roberts said. “Tony has had the good fortune of being around a lot of good Major League pitchers and taking a little bit from everybody. But having him be healthy has been huge, because we haven’t had that from him in the last couple years.”

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