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Dodgers do rookie no favors in gritty debut

@kengurnick
June 26, 2019

ARIZONA -- The Dodgers opened Wednesday’s series finale with rookie right-hander Tony Gonsolin on the mound in his MLB debut, and they ended it with well-rested righty Russell Martin pitching mop-up. Unfortunately for the Dodgers, the catcher pitched better than the pitcher in an 8-2 blowout loss to the D-backs

ARIZONA -- The Dodgers opened Wednesday’s series finale with rookie right-hander Tony Gonsolin on the mound in his MLB debut, and they ended it with well-rested righty Russell Martin pitching mop-up.

Unfortunately for the Dodgers, the catcher pitched better than the pitcher in an 8-2 blowout loss to the D-backs at Chase Field.

Box score

With a surprise bunt and multiple defensive mistakes before Eduardo Escobar’s three-run homer, the first four batters Gonsolin faced scored. Martin, firing 90-mph fastballs, breezed through a 1-2-3 eighth inning to keep intact a 0.00 ERA, pitching on 88 days' rest after firing a scoreless ninth inning on March 30, also against Arizona.

Gonsolin got the call and the ball as a sixth starter, with management deciding it was worth the risk to get an extra day of rest for the other five starters. Six starters, experimenting with Joc Pederson at first base and mopping up with a catcher to save a bullpen with four games upcoming at Coors Field are all parts of the long view this club takes, even if it means folding a hand early and dropping a series.

“You could see us sort of conceding in the eighth inning by pitching Russell to line our guys up in the 'pen, taking Cody [Bellinger] out when the probabilities of us winning were small,” said manager Dave Roberts, who took Bellinger out after six innings to rest his nagging left knee patellar tendinitis. By then, Bellinger had defeated a four-outfielder formation with a 427-foot home run to straightaway center. He’s expected to play on Thursday.

Gonsolin left after four innings, charged with six runs (four earned), striking out three without a walk. By game’s end, the Dodgers had committed three errors resulting in three unearned runs and the D-backs stole four bases. Jarrod Dyson had three hits, two steals and stole a home run in the seventh inning from Pederson, who was charged with two errors as he learns a new position on the fly.

“There’s really no soft landing, whether it’s one of your top pitchers or a rookie making his debut, you’ve still got to go out there and play the game,” said Roberts. “It’s not just first base. [Gonsolin] didn’t cover [first] one time, Chris [Taylor] made an error at shortstop. We just didn’t play well.”

With the promotion of Gonsolin and the demotion of catcher Will Smith, Los Angeles had a three-man bench and Roberts said that might continue in Colorado. Roberts said there could be roster changes coming, and utility man Edwin Rios was a late scratch from Triple-A Oklahoma City's lineup Wednesday night.

The 33-pitch first inning was a disaster. It started with Dyson’s bunt single with two strikes to defeat the shift. Speedy Tim Locastro then beat Gonsolin, who hesitated a split second, to first for an infield single, Pederson booted a routine grounder and Escobar slugged a three-run homer before there was an out.

“I wouldn’t say the game sped up on me. I think I held my composure very well,” said Gonsolin, a former outfielder who laced a single in his first MLB at-bat. “Just comes down to executing pitches. It was a lot of fun on both sides of the ball.”

Martin said if Gonsolin had beginner jitters, he didn’t sense it.

“It’s just tough. I feel like he almost got five or six outs that first inning,” he said. “It gets his pitch count up higher, but I couldn’t see that he was bothered or anything. He pitched real well the rest of the way. He was super well-prepared. I was pretty much impressed the way he went about it.”

Gonsolin’s fastball topped out at 96.2 mph. Martin hit a high of 90.4 mph during his strikeout of Christian Walker, who homered off Clayton Kershaw on Monday. When Martin faced Arizona in March, he threw only sliders after being cautioned not to get hurt.

“I felt that six runs, we’re still within striking distance, so I was going to make them earn it,” Martin said. “I gave them my best stuff. Maybe I threw harder because I had so much rest since the last time.”

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.