Gonsolin picks Kershaw's brain, then K's 10

September 21st, 2020

Along with the live arm, uncommon poise and four-pitch mix that resulted in a career-high 10 strikeouts on Sunday, it turns out that is no fool, either.

Some pitchers enter hitter-friendly Coors Field psychologically defeated before they warm up. But for his first start in the pitchers’ house of horrors -- a 6-3 Dodgers loss to the Rockies -- Gonsolin picked the brain of the most successful visiting pitcher in stadium history, Clayton Kershaw.

“I asked Kersh a little bit two days ago if he had anything for me,” Gonsolin said of the Dodgers’ ace, who is 11-5 at Coors Field.

“He basically said, ‘Aim lower. Trust your stuff. If you still throw a good pitch, it’s going to be a good pitch here as it would be at Dodger Stadium or wherever.’ So, that’s kind of what the mindset was. If I just throw pitches like I’m supposed to, they’ll still be good.”

And they were, with 55 of his 82 pitches going for strikes in his five innings. Gonsolin (1-2) took the loss when the Rockies strung a few soft hits and a walk in a two-run fourth inning, but his first three innings were electrifying. He struck out the first six batters he faced, seven of the first nine and three of the last five.

He was a late arrival to Summer Camp and wasn’t even on the Opening Day roster as management manipulated the arms to cover for injuries to Kershaw, Alex Wood and Walker Buehler, as well as David Price’s absence and Ross Stripling’s trade. With the opportunities Gonsolin has been presented -- seven starts and one extended relief outing -- he has a 1.77 ERA with only two home runs allowed in 40 2/3 innings.

“I think he has shown us resilience; as far as tough spots, no moment gets too big,” manager Dave Roberts said. “He really does a good job throwing strike one. And he’s shown in his last couple of outings the ability to punch them out when he has guys down. A lot of good stuff in his last couple turns.”

Along with a live fastball and a diving split-finger change, Gonsolin is deploying a slider along with a curveball he’s thrown since high school.

“With the slider versus the split, now you can kind of layer in the hitter and a potential weakness,” said Roberts. “So, he has more legitimate weapons to attack a hitter that makes him more lethal. Tony and Dustin [May] have had the opportunity to throw valuable innings and grow as Major League pitchers and that’s time you can’t replace, just getting out there and trying to attack hitters.”

With the loss -- and San Diego winning -- the magic number for clinching an eighth consecutive National League West title remained at two as the Dodgers’ win streak was stopped at five.

The Dodgers’ offense -- missing the resting Mookie Betts and Chris Taylor -- had runners in scoring position in the second, third and sixth innings and finally scored in the seventh on an Edwin Ríos RBI single to avoid being shut out for the first time this season.

They added two more runs in the ninth on AJ Pollock’s two-out single and the game ended with the tying run at the plate, but Taylor (who pinch-ran for Justin Turner in the eighth inning) grounded out.

Roberts said he lifted Turner as a precautionary measure to protect his healing left hamstring, but it was not reinjured and Turner is still expected to return to third base on Tuesday night.