Bolsinger rides 'roller coaster' curve in gem
Dodgers starter retires 23 straight over 8 dominant innings
LOS ANGELES -- In a contest in which a Dodgers starting pitcher would throw the season's first masterpiece, even Mike Bolsinger wouldn't have guessed Mike Bolsinger.
But there he was Saturday night, surrounded by media asking for details on the curveball (he taught himself) that had the Padres flailing and fumbling and, in Justin Upton's case, complaining enough with plate umpire Clint Fagan to be ejected.
Upton couldn't believe all of those strikes Bolsinger was throwing for a career-high eight strikeouts in a career-high eight innings, combining with Kenley Jansen on a one-hitter and 2-0 Dodgers win powered by Joc Pederson's first-inning homer and Justin Turner's RBI double.
After allowing a game-starting single to Yangervis Solarte, Bolsinger erased him on Cory Spangenberg's double-play grounder, the first of 23 consecutive batters he retired. Jansen, pitching in back-to-back games for the first time after foot surgery, got the last three Padres and the Dodgers had faced the minimum 27 for the first time since Odalis Perez's one-hitter in 2002.
Manager Don Mattingly said he could tell he made the right decision removing Bolsinger when he told the pitcher he was done after 92 pitches, although that wasn't the impression a diplomatic Bolsinger gave after missing out on his first career shutout and complete game.
"I wanted it but there'll be another time, another chance for that," he said.
Maybe one of Bolsinger's greatest assets is that he's so unusual, especially in this radar-gun era when front offices salivate over fireballers. But the new-era Dodgers made Bolsinger one of their early winter acquisitions, buying him from the D-Backs as Triple-A insurance because he was a strike-thrower.
Mattingly said you don't see a lot of pitchers with that kind of curveball. Club president Andrew Friedman had to go back to Doug Drabek's twilight years when asked for a comparable. Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt came up empty.
A.J. Ellis, catching Bolsinger for the first time, said Bolsinger has an "old Barry Zito curve … it comes in like a roller coaster," appearing to pick up speed just when most curveballs slow down.
Bolsinger didn't even make the Dodgers' Opening Day roster, but with injuries to Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy, he emerged from the Triple-A tryout shuttle as the best of the bunch.
Did he expect it to turn out like this?
"No, (laughs) I'll be honest," he said. "Going into AAA, I told myself, 'Pitch well and good things are going to happen. You're given an opportunity to come up here, go out there and do what you know you can do. If you pitch well, then obviously good things are going to happen.'"
His stats are Clayton Kershaw-like. He's 3-0 with a 0.71 ERA in four starts. He's allowed only 14 hits and six walks in 25 1/3 innings, while striking out 22.
He said he's not worried about job security even though Friedman has said he's looking for starting pitching.
"I'll keep pitching, try to get wins for the team and whatever happens, happens," he said.