Tony Gonsolin aces his Dodger Stadium debut in victory over Cardinals
The cheers amplified as Tony Gonsolin, the other pitching prospect the crowd had waited to watch for months, walked off the mound for the final time in the Dodgers’ 8-0 win Monday night. It was applause Gonsolin curried from the fans after offering a glimpse into his vast potential during his Dodger Stadium debut. He arrived hyped and fulfilled their expectations in earning his first major league win.
The shaggy-haired right-hander held the St. Louis Cardinals, a playoff contender with potent bats, to two hits and one walk across six innings with Sandy Koufax in attendance. He struck out seven and threw a season-high 90 pitches. He demonstrated the abilities — centered on a mid-90s fastball and a cruel splitter — that have made him a candidate to pitch for the Dodgers when the games matter most.
“Just in complete control tonight,” manager Dave Roberts said. “It was really, really fun to watch.”
Gonsolin and Dustin May, the Dodgers’ top pitching prospects, are under consideration to pitch out of the bullpen in the playoffs. The Dodgers will spend the next two months assessing their choices.
May, 21, made his major league debut Friday and will start again Wednesday. The 25-year-old Gonsolin had made two appearances — one as a starter and another as a reliever last week — before starting Monday in Hyun-Jin Ryu’s spot. Whether he will make another start for the Dodgers is to be determined.
Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill could end up being a bullpen option in the playoffs depending on how his rehab from a forearm strain progresses.
“That’s the goal,” Gonsolin said, “just to get that conversation going and get my name in the mix.”
Pitching outside of a hitter-friendly ballpark for the first time in his nascent big league career — his first two outings were at Chase Field and Coors Field — Gonsolin carried a no-hitter for 4 2/3 innings. Kolten Wong spoiled the bid with a double in the fifth. He was one of three baserunners the Cardinals mustered against Gonsolin, who peppered the strike zone and tallied first-pitch strikes to 12 of the final 17 batters he faced.
Since giving up four runs in the first inning of his big league career, Gonsolin has limited teams to three runs (two earned) in 13 innings.
“I’ve learned to just trust my stuff,” said Gonsolin (1-1), who recorded a four-inning save in Colorado. “I feel like learning that I can compete here whenever I get the opportunity, whether it’s starting or out of the ’pen, I think that’s a great experience for me and great to know.”
The last time these clubs met, Gonsolin was one start into his triple-A career and the Cardinals completed a four-game sweep in St. Louis. It was early April. The Dodgers emerged from the trouncing 8-6. They have since gone 67-34 and opened a season-high 18-game lead in the National League West, solidifying themselves as the NL’s team to beat. The Cardinals have since gone 50-48. They are clawing for a playoff berth. The disparity was evident Monday.
“I’ll take our chances against anybody,” Roberts said. “I don’t think that any team is a barometer for us. I think we kind of set the bar.”
Despite their struggles in St. Louis, the Dodgers banged right-hander Michael Wacha when they had the chance, chasing him after he gave up seven runs in 32/3 innings. The theme continued Monday in Wacha’s first start since July 4.
Joc Pederson led off with a single and Max Muncy walked. Two batters later, Wacha tried sneaking a fastball past Cody Bellinger. The pitch ran over the plate and Bellinger leveled it. The ball landed 419 feet away down the right-field line. Bellinger monitored it as it soared, slowly walking out of the batter’s box unsure whether it was going to land fair before beginning his 37th trot around the bases. Only Christian Yelich has clubbed more home runs this season.
Los Angeles stretched the lead in the third inning on Corey Seager’s ground-rule RBI double and again on Pederson’s solo home run in the fourth. Pederson’s homer — on a curveball with two outs and two strikes — was his first since July 21. It was his second hit of the night after going one for his previous 25.
Wacha’s final act was issuing another walk to Muncy. He left after 3 2/3 innings trailing 5-0. Justin Turner welcomed left-hander Adalberto Mejia with an RBI double.
Matt Beaty delivered a two-run double in the fifth before Gonsolin took the mound to complete his performance. He surrendered a single to Dexter Fowler, prompting a mound visit by catcher Will Smith as J.T. Chargois warmed in the bullpen. Paul Goldschmidt was at the plate. Gonsolin already was past his previous season high of 77 pitches. Goldschmidt likely was his final batter and he bore down.
Gonsolin began the clash against the former most valuable player candidate by getting him to swing through two pitches — a slider out of the zone and a splitter over the outer half. He tried inducing a swing on a slider off the plate, but Goldschmidt did not bite. There was no deceit with his next pitch. He reared back and fired a 95-mph fastball. Goldschmidt whiffed and Gonsolin strutted off the field to rousing acclaim.
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