One of the starting pitchers on Friday night at Dodger Stadium has already received the Cy Young Award.
However, in the Dodgers’ 5-1 victory over the San Diego Padres, it was another player who cemented his offseason spot by winning the award this year.
It may have been the best start of his career. Tony Gonsolin stole the show in front of 48,076 people at Chavez-Ravine, dropping just one run in a personal-best 7⅔ inning to solidify his grip on the top earned run average among big players.
To bring his ERA down to 1.54, Gonsolin did what he was best at in the first half of this breakout season.
He attacked over the plate. He racked up eight strikeouts but, more importantly, mastered his new-found efficiency, hitting 19 batters on four fields or fewer.
His fastball didn’t buzz, more than a tick below his season average of 91.8 mph. But his trademark splitter and slider were deadly, combining them for 13 swings and misses as he mowed through a plummeting Padres lineup.
Gonsolin doesn’t have as many innings as other National League starters, and several short starts early in the season are to blame.
Entering Friday, he didn’t even make the individual major tournament leaderboards, starting the night an inning short of the minimum inning requirement (one inning for every game played by the player’s team).
But by the end of his run — his 11th consecutive of at least five innings and his seventh in a stretch of at least six — he also had the best record in baseball (10-0), WHIP (.81) and batting average vs. (.154) to match his unparalleled ERA.
Padres starter Blake Snell, 2018 Cy Young American League Award winner, was also impressive on Friday, recording all but three of his strikeouts via knockout.
However, he had to contend with constant traffic. After Max Munsey’s solo burst opened the scoring in the second inning, Snell faced a bases-laden jam in the fourth, runners on second and third in the fourth, and two more on board in the fifth.
He avoided every squeeze but was forced out of the game after throwing 107 passes in five innings.
And once he was gone, a game that was tied – the Padres scored their only run against Gonsolin on a homer in the fifth inning off Trent Grisham – quickly saw the Dodgers regain the lead.
Cody Bellinger hit a solo home run in the sixth. Freddie Freeman hit an RBI single in reverse in seventh place. And by the time Gonsolin finished his performance, the Dodgers were well on their way to a third win in a row, adding a couple of insurances in the eighth to ensure Gonsolin’s gem didn’t go to waste.
Mookie Betts will be back in ‘a few days’
Mookie Betts continued to increase his rehab load after breaking his rib on Friday.
He swung at the pitching machine, ran around the bases, and most importantly felt good afterwards, prompting manager Dave Roberts to state that Betts could be back “in the next few days”.
While Roberts didn’t give a more precise timeline – he said it would be determined if Betts could return before the end of the weekend – he nonetheless said it was a good sign for the former MVP, who has been sidelined since injured a rib in a June 15 outfield collision with Bellinger.
“In terms of what we wanted to achieve, he does his best by passing this test,” said Roberts. “Taking some ground balls, throwing, stretching. I just talked to him and he said everything is fine.”
Roberts reiterated that Betts would likely return, playing at second base, where he would not be as bothered by short throws in the infield.
Roberts said Betts, who told the team he was uncomfortable being named hitter, would have to be mindful of not diving on his return – in the field or while running bases.
The final move for Betts will be a live inning he is scheduled to play on Saturday against Caleb Ferguson, who is also on the injured list.
“Perhaps this is the last item he needs to check,” Roberts said.
Yen Zhibo activated
The day after he was called out by the Cleveland Guardians, right-handed pitcher Yang Zhibo was activated by the Dodgers, who made the move to Justin Bruyle.
Gibo, 28, appeared in 28 major tournament games in four seasons with four different teams. He made one appearance for the Guardians on Monday before being assigned to a mission and claimed by the Dodgers.