The Dodgers arrived at Coors Field on Tuesday in an unfamiliar spot, seeking to bounce back from two routs the previous two days. They were outscored 20-5 in the two games. They hit one home run and played shoddy defense. The defeats, against the Washington Nationals and Colorado Rockies, were their ugliest this season for the club with the best record in the majors.
So it was not the optimal situation for a bullpen game, especially in this hitter’s paradise, but that was on the docket for the Dodgers. To replace Ross Stripling in the rotation, at least on this turn, they ditched the traditional starter. They were going to piece together the nine innings with various pitchers. They hoped the bullpen would not emerge exhausted. It was far from a guarantee.
In the end, the strategy worked in the Dodgers’ 9-4 victory over the Rockies. The Dodgers needed only three pitchers — Julio Urias, Casey Sadler and Tony Gonsolin — to become the first team with 70 victories and rebound before Wednesday’s matinee to complete the three-game series.
Urias gave up three runs in 22/3 innings as he struggled throwing a slider in the thin air before Sadler (1-0) logged 21/3 scoreless innings. The rest of the game belonged to Gonsolin, the Dodgers’ second-ranked pitching prospect. Making his second career outing, the mustachioed right-hander retired the first 11 batters he faced and overcame turbulence in the ninth inning to record the Dodgers’ first four-inning save since June 2017.
“Everybody did their job today,” catcher Russell Martin said.
A night after accumulating only four hits in the hitter-friendly ballpark, the Dodgers hit four home runs, constructed a 7-0 lead by the third inning and scored at least nine runs for the 24th time this season after doing it 22 times last season.
In the field, they were crisper, but not perfect. Left fielder Alex Verdugo, usually sure-handed, committed an error in the third inning that led to an unearned run, but that was the Dodgers’ only miscue. The performance constituted an improvement over their recent defensive struggles.
About an hour before the game’s scheduled first pitch, fans were advised to seek cover as a thunderstorm passed through. Rain poured and continued pounding the ballpark as game time approached. But the clubs took the field as scheduled anyway. The conditions did not hinder the visitors.
Two pitches into the game, A.J. Pollock homered against left-hander Kyle Freeland (2-9) to spark a three-run first inning. Their second stab at Freeland began with consecutive home runs by Kristopher Negron and Russell Martin. It was Negron’s first at-bat as a Dodger after being acquired Sunday. Martin hadn’t homered since May 19. They were an unlikely pairing for the ninth time the Dodgers connected for consecutive home runs this season.
Tyler White, also making his first start with the Dodgers, had a run-scoring single in the third inning against Freeland to make it 7-0.
“We were aggressive to our zone and he just made mistakes over the plate,” manager Dave Roberts said.
The outburst gave Urias some breathing room in his first start since June 20. The Dodgers chose late Monday to have Urias start in Stripling’s place after the left-hander went unused in the blowout loss. He was not crisp.
Urias wiggled free for two scoreless innings but encountered trouble he didn’t pitch through in the third. David Dahl lined a one-out triple. Nolan Arenado hit a two-out run-scoring double. Daniel Murphy drove in Arenado with a single and advanced to third base on Verdugo’s error as the Rockies wound up with three runs in the inning.
Urias’s night concluded with that miscue after 61 pitches. Sadler replaced him and held Colorado scoreless to get his first win as a Dodger. The offense expanded the lead on Justin Turner’s two-run home run against right-hander Chad Bettis in the fourth inning.
Gonsolin entered the game in the sixth inning looking for better results than his major league debut in a start against the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 26. He gave up six runs — four earned — in that outing, but the Dodgers were encouraged by how he handled some misfortune.
He was optioned to triple-A Oklahoma City the next day, but officials came away convinced he was ready to pitch at the major league level. The Dodgers consider Gonsolin, the organization’s reigning minor league pitcher of the year, an option to bolster the bullpen down the stretch and in October. Tuesday provided the first opportunity for the team to evaluate him in the role at the big league level and he impressed.
“Today was awesome, especially at Coors Field,” Martin said. “Sometimes, you see guys don’t have their stuff. It doesn’t really act the same, but for him, he was lights-out today.”
Boasting a fastball that sat between 95 and 96 mph to complement a wicked splitter, Gonsolin excelled for three innings. He needed six pitches to induce three groundouts in the sixth and retired the first 11 batters he faced until Raimel Tapia lined a two-out single in the ninth inning.
Chris Iannetta singled before Garrett Hampson hit a run-scoring double to prompt a mound visit. Gonsolin recovered to strike out Dahl to end the game.