One of the starting pitchers Friday night at Dodger Stadium has already won a Cy Young Award.
In the Dodgers’ 5-1 win over the San Diego Padres, however, it was the other who cemented his place in the midseason discussion for this year’s honor.
In perhaps the best start of his career, Tony Gonsolin stole the show in front of 48,076 at Chavez Ravine, giving up just one run in a personal-best 7⅔ innings to tighten his grasp on the majors’ best earned-run average.
To lower his ERA to 1.54, Gonsolin did what he has become best at during the first half of this breakthrough season.
He attacked over the plate. He amassed eight strikeouts but more importantly mastered newfound efficiency by retiring 19 batters on four pitches or fewer.
His fastball wasn’t humming, more than a tick below his season average at 91.8 mph. But his trademark splitter and slider were deadly, combining for 13 swings and misses as he mowed through a slumping Padres lineup.
Gonsolin doesn’t have as hefty an innings total as other National League starters, with a couple of short early-season starts to blame.
Entering Friday, he wasn’t even qualified for the majors’ individual leaderboards, starting the night an inning shy 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 consecutive of at least five innings and seventh in that stretch that has gone at least six — he also had baseball’s best record (10-0), WHIP (0.81) and batting average against (.154) to go along with his unparalleled ERA.
Padres starter Blake Snell, the 2018 American League Cy Young Award winner, was also impressive Friday, recording all but three of his outs via a punchout.
However, he had to battle constant traffic. After Max Muncy’s solo blast opened the scoring in the second inning, Snell faced a bases-loaded jam in the fourth, runners at second and third in the fourth, and two more aboard in the fifth.
He escaped each squeeze but had to leave the game after throwing 107 pitches through five innings.
And once he left, a game that had been tied — the Padres scored their only run against Gonsolin on a fifth-inning homer from Trent Grisham — quickly saw the Dodgers retake the lead.
Cody Bellinger hit a solo home run in the sixth. Freddie Freeman punched an RBI single the other way in the seventh. And by the time Gonsolin finished his outing, the Dodgers were well on their way to a third straight win, tacking on a couple of insurance runs in the eighth to ensure Gonsolin’s gem didn’t go to waste.
Mookie Betts back in ‘few days’
Mookie Betts continued to increase the workload of his rehabilitation from a cracked rib Friday.
He took swings off a pitching machine, ran the bases and, most importantly, felt good afterward, leading manager Dave Roberts to declare that Betts could be back “in the next few days.”
While Roberts didn’t give a more exact timeline — he said it’s to be determined whether Betts can return before the end of the weekend — he nonetheless said it was a good sign for the former MVP, who has been out since hurting his rib in a June 15 outfield collision with Bellinger.
“As far as what we wanted to accomplish, he’s taking full effort swings, passing that test,” Roberts said. “Taking some ground balls, throwing, stretching it out. I just talked to him, and he said everything felt good.”
Roberts reiterated that Betts will likely come back playing second base, where he wouldn’t be as bothered with short throws on the infield.
Roberts said Betts, who has told the team he isn’t comfortable being a designated hitter, will have to be mindful upon his return about not diving — in the field or while running the bases.
The last step for Betts will be facing live pitching, which he is slated to do Saturday against Caleb Ferguson, who is also on the injured list.
“That’s probably the last box he needs to check,” Roberts said.
Ian Gibaut activated
A day after claiming him off waivers from the Cleveland Guardians, right-handed pitcher Ian Gibaut was activated by the Dodgers, who optioned Justin Bruihl in a corresponding move.
Gibaut, 28, has appeared in 28 games in the majors over four seasons with four different teams. He made one appearance for the Guardians on Monday before being designated for assignment and claimed by the Dodgers.