Tony Gonsolin will lead a ‘collection of arms’ for Dodgers in Game 3 vs. Padres
Entering this week’s National League Division Series, the Dodgers knew they’d have to stomach one game with an imperfect pitching plan, that Tony Gonsolin’s reduced workload following a late-season forearm strain would force them to resort to one de facto bullpen game.
With the series tied 1-1 and shifting south to Petco Park this weekend, the Dodgers decided Friday was the time to get it out of the way.
Gonsolin will start a pivotal Game 3 in the best-of-five series, manager Dave Roberts announced Wednesday night and confirmed during a video call with reporters Thursday, but exactly how long he will go, and how the rest of the staff will line up behind him, remains unclear.
“I see it as a collection of arms,” Roberts said. “Obviously less is more, but if we have to use six arms tomorrow, we’ll do that.”
The move is something of a gamble for the Dodgers, who will save left-handed All-Star Tyler Anderson for a start in Game 4 on Saturday.
The Dodgers gave the Padres too many chances to win, and San Diego exploited them for a 5-3 victory in Game 2 of the National League Division Series.
The Padres will counter in Game 3 with left-hander Blake Snell, who wasn’t all that efficient against the Dodgers this year but did limit them to just six runs over 14 innings in three starts, giving San Diego perhaps its first pitching advantage of the series.
Roberts, however, was confident about the Dodgers’ choice.
He said they opted for the patchwork pitching plan in Game 3 because it will follow an off day, allowing the full complement of relievers to be available to contribute.
That includes Andrew Heaney and Dustin May, regular-season starters who have transitioned to the bullpen and are stretched out to each pitch 3-4 innings.
Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger struggled at the plate and saved two runs in Game 2 of the NLDS against the San Diego Padres but will be benched for Game 3.
Roberts said he’s not approaching the game as a piggyback situation, though, instead preparing to hunt certain matchups and use the full depth of his 13-man pitching staff.
“There’s not necessarily a person that has to take bulk [innings],” Roberts said. “I just think I’m going to make the decisions [based on] whatever gives us the best chance to win and to prevent runs.”
At one point this year Gonsolin was a Cy Young candidate and arguably the Dodgers’ best pitcher, earning his first career All-Star selection while going 16-1 with a 2.14 ERA.
But then the forearm injury sidetracked his season, forcing him to miss all of September and return for a brief two-inning start during the final week of the season.
Yu Darvish will forever be known to Dodgers fans as the player who lost in Game 7 of the 2017 World Series, but he has grown into a different pitcher since then.
While Gonsolin is built up to 75 pitches following a simulated game last weekend, Roberts sounded as though he wouldn’t hesitate to go to his bullpen early.
“I think we’ve got an opportunity with a compilation of arms to change and vary looks,” Roberts said, “[so] that they don’t get the same looks two or three or four times.”
It won’t all come down to the pitching.
The Dodgers could use a better offensive performance, as well. They’ve yet to score in nine innings against Padres relievers. They’ve gotten little production from Mookie Betts (1 for 8), Justin Turner (1 for 6) and Trayce Thompson (0 for 6). And they’ve been poor as a team situationally, going three for 16 with runners in scoring position.
The Dodgers are struggling against an immaculate San Diego Padres bullpen that has allowed four hits and no runs over the first two games of the NLDS.
The team will shake up its Game 3 lineup, Roberts said, putting Chris Taylor in left field and Austin Barnes behind the plate for the first time this series. Cody Bellinger and Gavin Lux, both left-handed hitters, will be dropped to the bench against Snell. Will Smith will be the designated hitter.
“I like where our offense is at,” Roberts said. “I really do.”
But in the end, the pitching will likely be the biggest factor in a crucial swing game that could either restore the Dodgers’ advantage in the series or put their franchise-record 111-win season on the brink.
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