Tony Gonsolin pitches to stay undefeated as Dodgers beat Padres

Dodgers shortstop Tony Gonsolin walks during the first game against the Padres on Friday, July 1, 2022.

Tony Gonsolin gave up one run and four hits in 7⅔ innings Friday night as the Dodgers beat the San Diego Padres 5-1. He improved to 10-0 this season and lowered his ERA to 1.54. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

One of the pitchers who started 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 himself as a strong contender for this year’s honor.

In perhaps his best start in the majors, Tony Gonsolin stole the show in front of 48,076 at Chavez Ravine, giving up just one run in 7⅔ innings to cement his hold on the majors’ best earned run average.

“He was outstanding tonight,” manager Dave Roberts said. “I thought his whole mix had worked.”

Austin Barnes said: “He gets after the players and knows what he’s doing. He has a lot of conviction in every throw.”

Indeed, to lower his season ERA to 1.54, Gonsolin was at his best during the first half of this important season.

He attacked over the plate, hitting the strike zone on 73 of 92 pitches. He collected eight hits, but more importantly mastered the new efficiency of retiring 19 batters on four pitches or less.

His fastball was commanded with precision, even at a slower-than-normal 91.8 mph.

His trademark splitter and slider were deadly, combining for 13 swings and misses on a night that ended with him becoming just the third pitcher in Los Angeles franchise history to start a season 10-0.

“I was just trying to stay in the zone,” Gonsolin said. “Let them hit it.”

After starting his career with three solid but unusual seasons, Gonsolin has emerged as one of baseball’s most unexpected stars heading into this year’s midseason.

He doesn’t have as many innings as some of the other top players in the majors, with a few short outings early in the season to blame.

Entering Friday, he didn’t even qualify for the individual leaderboards, starting the night less than the minimum required innings (one inning for each game played by a player’s team).

But by the end of his outing — his 11th straight of at least five innings and the seventh in that stretch to go at least six — he had baseball’s best walks plus hits per inning (WHIP) at 0.81 and a batting average (,154). ) to go along with the unmatched 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 player.”

Padres starter Blake Snell, the 2018 American League Cy Young winner, was also impressive on Friday, recording 12 strikeouts in just five innings.

However, he had to contend with constant movement. After Max Muncy’s solo blast opened the scoring in the second inning, Snell faced a bases-loaded jam in the third, runners on second and third in the fourth and two more in the fifth.

Max Muncy and Padres Dodgers starting pitcher Blake Snell watch Muncy's second home run on July 1, 2022.

Dodgers Max Muncy and Padres starting pitcher Blake Snell watch the flight of Muncy’s second solo homer. Snell struck out 12 in five innings. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

He got away each time, but had to leave the game after the fifth with a pitch count of 107. Gonsolin, meanwhile, had to throw just 57, finding a groove even after Trent Grisham’s solo blast tied the game at 1.

“He’s got pitches that go every which way, and he shows his fastball on both sides of the plate,” Barnes said. “It’s hard I think for them to zero in on a certain speed and pitch.”

The rest of the night, the Dodgers (48-28) took advantage of their pitching.

They surged ahead with runs in each of their final 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.

Dodgers' Cody Bellinger rounds the bases after hitting a shutout home run during Game 6, July 1, 2022.

Cody Bellinger rounds the bases after hitting a go-ahead home run during the sixth inning for the Dodgers. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

The Padres (46-33), on the other hand, couldn’t figure out Gonsolin, who made sure there was no doubt about whether he would get into the eighth inning for the first time in his career.

“I wasn’t going to let Doc get me out after that seventh,” he said of Roberts, who was finally brought up only when the top of the Padres’ lineup went up for the fourth time. “It felt good to be back and I feel good.”

Asked if he would have had the confidence at the start of the season to play the way he did on Friday, Gonsolin said “yes and no”.

“I feel like I didn’t believe in myself as much as I do now,” he said before replying that nothing he’s done this season has surprised himself.

“I’m just trying to go out there and throw strikes,” he said. “And see what happens.”

He was asked about the All-Star Game and the possibility of being the National League starter at Dodger Stadium later this month.

“There’s no reason to get ahead of myself,” he said. “I threw well today. I will celebrate today. The goal is to win tomorrow.”

And once again, he gave short, measured answers, careful not to dwell too much on his last gem — even if everyone else on the Dodgers did.

“He’s been so consistent for us,” Roberts said. “I don’t think it should surprise anyone anymore.”

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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