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Tony Gonsolin continues stellar start as Dodgers beat Angels to open Freeway Series

Dodgers pitcher Tony Gonsolin throws to the plate during the first inning against the Angels.
Dodgers pitcher Tony Gonsolin throws to the plate during the first inning against the Angels on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
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The first time Tony Gonsolin walked off the mound mid-inning Tuesday night, it was by accident, the Dodgers starter heading for the dugout prematurely when he mistakenly thought the second out in the third inning was the third.

In the top of the seventh, Gonsolin vacated the rubber in the middle of an inning again. This time there was no mix up. When manager Dave Roberts came to pull him after 6 1/3 scoreless innings, he didn’t have a choice.

The Dodgers went on to beat the Angels in the first of a two-game Freeway Series at Dodger Stadium, winning 2-0 behind a bases-loaded walk from Angels starter Noah Syndergaard in the fourth, a solo home run by Mookie Betts in the eighth, and a save from closer Craig Kimbrel in the ninth after he escaped a bases-loaded jam.

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Gonsolin was the biggest factor, though, continuing his stellar start to the season by improving to 8-0 and lowering his ERA to 1.42 — both major league bests.

“This is as confident as he’s been in his own abilities,” Roberts said. “He’s scratching the surface on some really good things.”

Yet, it was Roberts’ decision to remove Gonsolin with one out in the seventh, and the pitcher’s frustrated reaction, that perhaps best illustrated the current state of the Dodgers’ season.

With Walker Buehler out until at least late August or early September because of a flexor strain in his elbow, the Dodgers are in need of others on their staff to pitch like an ace.

Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler told reporters he is hopeful to return to the mound this season while manager Dave Roberts further explained the motivation for his pregame comments.

June 14, 2022

So far, Gonsolin has looked most like the part, using his wicked fastball-splitter-slider arsenal to effect once again against the Angels in a one-hit, two-walk, six-strikeout start.

“I’m just attacking guys,” Gonsolin said. “I made it a point in spring training to just throw strikes and see what happens. Try to give whoever is hitting my best stuff.”

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The results have been impeccable.

However, the governor hasn’t been removed completely yet, either — for Gonsolin, or anybody else in the Dodgers rotation, as the team tries to maximize short-term production while protecting its arms for the long haul too.

“That’s the balancing act,” Roberts said.

Even though Gonsolin had thrown only 86 pitches — most of them stress-free on a night the Angels (29-34), even with outfielder Taylor Ward back in their lineup, failed to get a runner in scoring position against him — Roberts decided to lift the starter with one out in the seventh.

Gonsolin didn’t look pleased, reluctantly handing the ball over before softly shaking his head on his way to the dugout.

“I definitely wanted to stay out,” he said.

Roberts was running a different calculation, all too aware Gonsolin hasn’t pitched a full season since 2019 and has already eclipsed his MLB career high for innings at 63 1/3.

“He should want to stay out there,” Roberts said. “But for me … I’ve also got to manage the next start, the ensuing starts, through October.”

The Dodgers will likely have more such nights as they try to compensate for Buehler’s absence.

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Angels' Shohei Ohtani is tagged out at second by Dodgers second baseman Gavin Lux.
Angels’ Shohei Ohtani is tagged out at second by Dodgers second baseman Gavin Lux as he tries to steal during the fourth inning on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Speaking to reporters for the first time since his flexor tendon strain was diagnosed, Buehler said he will be shut down for six weeks and likely won’t return to action for at least 10 to 12 weeks.

He maintained he is “as confident as you can be” about returning this season — even after having an unrelated arthroscopic procedure Monday to remove a bone spur, an operation he decided to have now because it won’t affect his timeline to return — but also acknowledged the recovery process can be “a tricky thing.”

“You never know what’s going to happen on the other side of these things,” he added.

As Tuesday’s game showed, it will add another layer of complexity to the Dodgers’ pitching decisions in the meantime — trying to fill a void while keeping the workloads of the rest of their staff in check.

After starting the season strong, both the Dodgers and Angels enter this week’s Freeway Series hoping to reverse their downward trajectories.

June 13, 2022

Heaney makes rehab start

Andrew Heaney made what is expected to be his final rehab start Sunday, pitching five scoreless innings with nine strikeouts for the club’s double-A affiliate in Tulsa. Heaney, who has been out since April because of a shoulder injury, could be ready to return to the team as soon as Sunday.

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Umpire injury

Home plate umpire Nate Tomlinson left the game in the ninth inning after Mike Trout’s bat broke during a swing and hit Tomlinson in the face. The broken end of the bat appeared to strike Tomlinson through a slit in his mask, cutting him above the eye and also injuring his nose. Second base umpire Laz Diaz took over behind home plate for the rest of the ninth.

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