LOS ANGELES — With four games coming up in a 36-hour span, the Dodgers are going to need their pitching staff, particularly the starters, to be much better than they were during the weekend series against the Phillies.
Before Monday’s game, manager Dave Roberts talked about the importance of someone stepping up and getting deep into a game. Tony Gonsolin welcomed the challenge and came through in a big way, allowing two runs and striking out a season-high seven over six strong innings in the Dodgers’ 5-4 win over the D-backs at Dodger Stadium.
“This had to be one of the top [outings] he’s had,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “For him to give us six innings and be efficient at it was really impressive. I think this is, for his maturation as a big league ballplayer, this is a defining moment. This is a big one. He came through big.”
Outside of a solo homer by Christian Walker in the second inning, Gonsolin was as dominant as he’s been in his career. He retired the side in order in three of his six frames, including striking out the side in the third inning. In the fourth, Gonsolin navigated through some sloppy Dodgers defense and was able to limit the damage.
“He got hit in the mouth,” Roberts said, referring to the Walker homer. “And then every fastball I saw from him was with conviction. There was efficiency, there was really having good command of his entire pitch mix tonight.”
Gonsolin threw 92 pitches, a new career-high. The key, as Roberts noted, was that the right-hander was able to stay in the strike zone, allowing him to get deeper than usual into the game. Lack of command has plagued Gonsolin over the last two seasons. Once he got ahead, he was able to finish off the D-backs’ hitters, particularly with his signature splitter, which he used to record five of his 11 swings and misses.
“Anything to give our bullpen a break,” Gonsolin said. “I was fortunate enough to get those few days off in between starts. So take advantage of those and then give my best effort every time I get to go out.”
The Dodgers’ offense backed up Gonsolin as Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman led the charge during a three-run fifth inning, each delivering an RBI hit. Betts has at least one hit in 14 of his last 16 games. In the sixth, Max Muncy bunted for a base hit, something he and a few other Dodgers hitters worked on before the game. Chris Taylor then followed Muncy’s bunt with a two-run homer, which proved to be the game-winning hit.
“Just a lot of good things,” Roberts said.
But none was better than Gonsolin’s performance.
Entering the spring, Gonsolin was battling for one of the two open spots in the Dodgers’ rotation. After an injury-riddled 2021 season, the Dodgers felt good about Gonsolin’s chances to bounce back. His right shoulder is finally healthy. Gonsolin has run away with the opportunity, with some guidance from future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw.
Gonsolin has leaned on Kershaw for advice this season. The right-hander wants to be efficient enough to make pitching deep into games a routine event. Through seven starts, Gonsolin has been more effective than any other Dodger starter, posting a team-low 1.64 ERA. Now he’s learning the value of posting innings. That’s exactly what the Dodgers will need during the current 31 games in 30 days stretch. They got it on Monday.
“That’s something that Major League starters take pride in,” Roberts said. “Having Clayton as a mentor has kind of been the finishing touches.”