One of the pitchers who started Friday-evening at Dodger Stadium has already won a Cy Young Award.
with the evaders 5-1 win over the San Diego Padres, however, it was the other who established himself as a strong early contender for this year’s honor.
In arguably his best start in the major leagues, Tony Gonsolin stole the show for 48,076 at Chavez Ravine, allowing just one run in a career-high 7⅔ innings to tighten his hold on the majors’ highest-earned average.
“He was excellent tonight”, manager Dave Roberts said. “I thought he had his whole mix working.”
Echo Catcher Austin Barnes: “He goes after hitters, and he knows what he’s doing. He has a lot of conviction with every throw.”
Indeed, to lower his seasonal ERA to 1.54, Gonsolin did what he has become best at during the first half of this breakthrough season.
He attacked across the plate and hit the strike zone on 73 of 92 pitches. He struckout eight batters, but, most importantly, mastered newfound efficiency by eliminating 19 batters on four or fewer pitches.
His fastball was ordered with precision, even at a below-normal speed of 91.8 mph.
His signature splitter and slider were lethal, combined for 13 swings and misses in a night that ended with him becoming just the third pitcher in the history of the Los Angeles franchise to start a 10-0 season.
“I was just trying to stay in the zone,” Gonsolin said. “Just let them hit.”
After kicking off his career with three solid but unspectacular seasons, Gonsolin has emerged as one of baseball’s most unexpected stars this year.
He doesn’t have quite as high an innings total as some of the other top starters in the majors, with a few short trips early in the season to blame.
When he came in on Friday, he hadn’t even qualified for the individual standings, starting the night with an inning short of the minimum inning requirement (one inning for every game played by a player’s team).
But by the end of his outing — his 11th straight of at least five innings and seventh in that stretch at least six gone — he had baseball’s best walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP) at 0.81 and batting average against (0.154 ) ) to go along with his unparalleled ERA and unblemished win-loss record.
“His growth has been exponential,” Roberts said. “He just understands how to navigate a lineup. … He knows who he is as a big league pitcher.”
Padres starter Blake Fastthe 2018 American League winner Cy Young, was also impressive on Friday, striking out 12 batters in just five innings.
However, he had to fight constant traffic. After Max Muncy’s solo blast opened the score in the second inning, Snell faced a base jam in the third, runners on second and third base in the fourth and two more on board in the fifth.
He escaped each time, but had to leave the game after the fifth with a pitch count of 107. Gonsolin, meanwhile, had only thrown 57 and found a groove, even after Trent Grisham’s solo blast made it to 1.
“He can go all kinds of ways and he shows his fastball on both sides of the plate,” said Barnes. “It’s hard for them to respond to a specific speed and pitch.”
The rest of the evening, the Dodgers (48-28) took advantage of the pitching advantage.
They shot forward with runs in each of their last three innings at the plate against the Padres’ bullpen — on Cody Bellinger’s solo home run in the sixth, Freddie Freeman’s RBI double in the seventh and two insurance runs in the eighth.
The Padres (46-33), on the other hand, were unable to track down Gonsolin, who ensured that there was no doubt that he would pitch in the eighth inning for the first time in his career.
“I wasn’t going to let Doc take me out after that seventh,” he said of Roberts, who was eventually lifted only when the top of the Padres’ lineup emerged for the fourth time. “Felt good to go out again and feel good.”
When asked if he would have had the confidence to throw as he did Friday at the start of the season, Gonsolin replied “yes and no”.
“I feel like I didn’t believe in myself as much as I do now,” he said before coming across that nothing he’s done this season has surprised himself.
“I just try to go out and throw strikes,” he said. “And look what happens.”
He was questioned about the All-Star Game and the potential that he could be the National League starting pitcher later this month at Dodger Stadium.
“There’s no need to get ahead of things,” he said. “I threw well today. I’m going to celebrate today. The goal is to win tomorrow.”
And again, he gave short answers in a measured tone, careful not to enjoy his latest gem too much – even if everyone else on the evaders did.
“He’s been so consistent for us,” Roberts said. “I don’t think it should surprise anyone anymore.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times†