LOS ANGELES -- From one end of the spectrum (MVP candidate Cody Bellinger’s three-run homer) to the other (rookie Tony Gonsolin’s six scoreless innings), the Dodgers manhandled St. Louis on Monday night at Dodger Stadium, 8-0, to open the first of three series this month against teams they could meet in the postseason (also Atlanta and the Yankees).
“We talked about it before the game, all three are playoff teams and we’re definitely aware of it,” said Justin Turner. “I don’t think you try any harder or do anything different, but you pay closer attention to the details knowing we might see these guys in October.”
When manager Dave Roberts was asked if playing the Cardinals provided a barometer of his team’s capabilities, the answer embodied the confidence of the best team in baseball.
“I don’t think any team’s a barometer for us,” said Roberts. “I think we kind of set the bar.”
With an 18-game division lead, who can argue? And with the depth to conduct a tryout camp in August, then the rookie making his Dodger Stadium debut fires a two-hitter over six scoreless innings, the bar is set way up there.
It’s so high, in fact, Roberts wasn’t able to announce what Gonsolin’s next assignment would be, or even what level it would be.
“This is a pleasant problem, for him to pitch well, it’s a good thing for all of us,” said Roberts. “We’re going to discuss it tonight and figure out what’s best for Tony and our ballclub. Whether that’s here or in OKC [Triple-A Oklahoma City], that remains to be seen. Certainly, if we’re going to see him in that [relief] role, you’ve got to give him the best opportunity to have success.”
Gonsolin was making a spot start for Hyun-Jin Ryu, who is expected back from the injured list this weekend. Dustin May, who, like Gonsolin, is auditioning for an October role on the pitching staff, starts Wednesday in place of the injured Ross Stripling.
“You look at Tony and Dustin, two really confident guys, they feel like this is where they belong and are supposed to be,” said Turner. “Tony walked his first guy tonight in three outings. We talked about it around the clubhouse -- he makes guys earn it, attacks hitters and doesn’t give away free bases.
Gonsolin and May are just the latest in a long line of rookies that have impacted this Dodgers season, from Alex Verdugo and Will Smith to Matt Beaty, Kyle Garlick and Edwin Rios.
“In the beginning of Spring Training, guys play three or four inings and get out of there. It almost seemed like we were putting better teams on the field when those guys came in the game,” said Turner. “Driving balls all over the place. We knew we had a lot of talented players. Obviously, they are coming up here and showing it on this level.”
For his first MLB victory, Gonsolin rookie struck out seven while allowing just three baserunners: a walk to Marcell Ozuna leading off the second inning, a double to Kolten Wong with two out in the fifth inning to spoil the no-hitter and a fifth-inning single by Dexter Fowler.
A reliever until last season that has never thrown a professional complete game, Gonsolin made a season-high 90 pitches and the bullpen finished the final three innings. He was coming off a four-inning save at Coors Field. His only other Dodgers start was an unlucky four-inning loss at Arizona on June 26.
“I’m learning I can compete here when I get the opportunity, whether it’s starting or out of the ‘pen,” Gonsolin said. “It’s been awesome. The goal is to get the conversation going and get my name in the mix, hopefully to stay here.”
Gonsolin said he didn’t notice that Sandy Koufax was sitting in the owners’ box.
“Did he have anything good to say?” Gonsolin asked.