Dodgers see 'really good signs' from Atlanta series
Gonsolin's strong first three innings, Vargas' big at-bat offer silver linings in walk-off loss
ATLANTA -- After losing three of four to the Cardinals to begin their biggest road trip of the season against three teams that each made the postseason a year ago, the Dodgers were faced with a daunting week. Los Angeles had back-to-back sets against the Braves and Rays, two of the best teams in the Majors.
Though early in the season, this will serve as a good measuring stick for the Dodgers in order to get a sense of where they stack up against some of MLB's elite teams.
Despite Wednesday’s 4-3 loss to the Braves at Truist Park, which ended on a walk-off sacrifice fly in the ninth inning, the Dodgers passed their first test, taking two of three against Atlanta despite not having favorable pitching matchups throughout the series. On paper, that is.
“Solid,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said when asked for his thoughts on the three-game series against the Braves. “Being on the road for seven straight days. The time difference and all that stuff. The way we bounced back, collectively, I thought we did a fantastic job. For me, the effort, how we played, winning two of three ... like I said, really good signs.”
Because of injuries to Dustin May and Julio Urías in the rotation, the Dodgers trotted out rookies Gavin Stone and Bobby Miller to make their second and first starts, respectively. Both rookies stood tall and gave the Dodgers just enough to take the first two games of the series.
The Dodgers went for the sweep on Wednesday with Tony Gonsolin on the mound, who had another typical outing. Roberts said Gonsolin was “clearly efficient” on Wednesday, but the right-hander didn’t offer any insight when asked if he believes he’s trending in the right direction.
In reality, the results were somewhere in the middle, which is where Gonsolin has been since the first half of last season. The 29-year-old looked dominant for three innings, retiring the first nine batters he faced. But as the Braves got another look at Gonsolin, his efficiency declined over his last three frames, which has been an issue as the right-hander tries to get deeper into games.
Matt Olson opened the scoring, blasting a solo homer that traveled a Statcast-projected 456 feet and had an exit velocity of 115.9 mph. Gonsolin walked Ozzie Albies in the fifth, which led to Marcell Ozuna hitting a two-run homer that also traveled over 450 feet. In the end, Gonsolin’s outing concluded after allowing three runs over 5 2/3 innings of work.
“I mean, I feel like I executed pitches pretty well today, top to bottom,” Gonsolin said. “Feel like I made two mistakes, and they hit them both out. Can’t walk Albies in that situation to lead to Ozuna’s homer, but it happens.”
Before Gonsolin gave up the two homers that got the Braves on the board, the Dodgers’ offense struggled to get timely hitting against starter Bryce Elder. Los Angeles had two baserunners in each of its first three innings, but went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position to start the game.
But in the eighth inning the Dodgers’ offense showed the comeback ability that has defined it over the last few weeks. With two on and one out, Jason Heyward cut the deficit to 3-2 with an RBI groundout. Miguel Vargas then followed with one of the best at-bats of his young career, depositing a ground-rule double that just stayed fair to tie the game at 3.
“I knew it was a huge at-bat for us with the tying run at third base,” Vargas said. “So I’m trying to take a good at-bat and try to drive the runner in. I was trying to fight out there.”
Despite the comeback, however, the Braves walked it off against Phil Bickford in the ninth. It’s a game the Dodgers could’ve won, but they walked off the field knowing they started the toughest week of their season by winning a series against Atlanta, a team they expect to face come October.
“We can reset tomorrow,” Roberts said. “Short trip, and be ready for a really good ballclub in Tampa.”