Dodgers back Tony Gonsolin’s strong outing in 4-1 win over White Sox
For a brief moment Wednesday night, last year’s version of Tony Gonsolin started to reappear.
The right-hander gave up a home run and a double to lead off the fifth inning, then labored through a long at-bat that ended with a walk.
His pitch count was starting to rise. His secondary weapons looked a little out of whack. And the bullpen began to stir as the pitching coach Mark Prior came to the mound.
But then, this year’s new and improved version of Gonsolin returned.
He got the next three batters out to limit the damage in the fifth, returned to the mound for an impressive sixth inning, and ended his start in the Dodgers’ 4-1 win over the Chicago White Sox back in possession of the National League’s ERA lead, lowering his mark to 1.58 in a six-inning, one-run gem.
“I’ve done pretty well this far [this season],” Gonsolin said. “I hope to continue it.”
The Dodgers and Angels employ several announcers and analysts this season, a far cry from the days of Vin Scully and Chick Hearn.
Lately, there have been few signs Gonsolin won’t.
Wednesday was his fifth consecutive six-inning start. He’s given up two runs or fewer in all of them.
It was his fourth straight appearance walking one batter or less, a major improvement upon one of his biggest issues from an inconsistent and injury-plagued 2021 performance.
And it was his eighth outing in a row with at least five strikeouts, the 28-year-old reaching that mark Wednesday even without great feel for his slider or splitter.
“It’s one of those [nights] where you might not have your best stuff, as far as command, but he can navigate a lineup,” manager Dave Roberts said, adding: “You can count on him now to make pitches. … Just continued growth on Tony’s part.”
Gifted an early three-run lead after home runs from Will Smith and Cody Bellinger — Trea Turner also went deep Wednesday, the 10th time this year the Dodgers (36-20) have hit at least three home runs in a game — Gonsolin (7-0) cruised through the first four innings, yielding just two baserunners and throwing only 49 pitches.
Trouble finally arose in the fifth.
Jake Burger lined a full-count fastball to left for a solo blast. Gavin Sheets lifted a curveball to the gap for a double. AJ Pollock drew Gonsolin’s lone walk, bringing the potential go-ahead run to the plate and Prior to the mound.
“Prior came out,” Gonsolin later recalled, “and just said, ‘One at a time.’”
Gonsolin obliged, getting a fielder’s choice grounder from Danny Mendick, burying a splitter that Leury Garcia whiffed for strike three, then escaping the jam on a routine flyout from Luis Robert that ended the inning.
Granted the sixth inning by Roberts, even with the middle of the lineup from the White Sox (26-28) due up a third time, Gonsolin retired the side in order, racking up his fourth and fifth strikeouts before strutting confidently off the mound — handing a lead over to the bullpen that the Dodgers wouldn’t relinquish.
“[He’s] trusting his stuff in the strike zone and understands how to navigate a lineup,” Roberts said.
Kershaw, Muncy nearing returns
The Dodgers could be getting two veterans back soon.
Clayton Kershaw (SI joint inflammation in lower back) is expected to start Sunday’s game in San Francisco against the Giants, Roberts said, after the left-hander threw a 40-plus pitch bullpen session Wednesday.
Max Muncy (left elbow) could be back sooner, according to Roberts, who said there is a good possibility the infielder will rejoin the Dodgers on Wednesday after a week-long rehab stint with triple-A Oklahoma City.
After an injury-plagued and inefficient 2021 season, Dodgers pitcher Tony Gonsolin has started this year with a 6-0 record and 1.59 ERA.
Though Muncy went two for 14 with six strikeouts in four rehab games, he did hit a walk-off home run Tuesday night and walked three times.
“The arm feels good, the body feels good,” Roberts said. “We were going to let him drive it, so when he felt good enough to return to play then that was it. We feel good about it.”
Roberts was asked if it would have been better for Muncy, who is batting just .150 in 41 major league games this season and was accompanied in Oklahoma City by assistant hitting coach Aaron Bates, to continue his rehab stint until he got more consistent results.
“Certainly [the results] matter – they don’t matter as much there – but talking to Aaron and talking to Max, they both feel confident,” Roberts said. “If you layer on getting a few more hits, [that] certainly would be better. But I’m going to trust those two guys feel good about where he’s at and he’s ready to come back.”
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