Gonsolin lowers MLB-best ERA to 1.42

Right-hander is first NL pitcher to earn 8 wins this season

June 15th, 2022

LOS ANGELES -- Over his first few seasons in the Majors, Tony Gonsolin’s most recognizable trait has been his love for cats. He often wears shirts with cats plastered all over them and even wore cat-inspired cleats last season. 

But through 12 starts in 2022, Gonsolin has developed into the top dog in the Dodgers’ rotation.  

Gonsolin continued his dominant start to the season, striking out six and allowing just one hit over 6 1/3 scoreless innings in the Dodgers’ 2-0 win over the Angels on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium. The right-hander improved to 8-0 this season and his 1.42 ERA is the lowest in the Majors among qualified starters.

“It feels good,” Gonsolin said when told he’s the first NL pitcher to eight wins this season. “I know I’ve struggled in years past to go deeper into games and even qualify for a win, so it feels good knowing that I’m getting deeper into games and giving us a chance to win.”

Not only has Gonsolin given the Dodgers a chance to win, but the right-hander has proved to be the perfect guy on the mound when Los Angeles is desperately looking for a much-needed win. 

Before Tuesday’s game, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was open about the team needing to play with a sense of urgency this week. It’s only mid-June and nobody is scoreboard watching, but the Dodgers’ lead atop the National League West has disappeared, coming into the night in a two-way tie with the Padres. The Giants, who swept the Dodgers over the weekend, came in just three games back.

If the Dodgers learned anything last season, it was the importance of winning the division and avoiding the Wild Card Series, which has a best-of-three format this season.

A struggling Dodgers offense did just enough on Tuesday as Justin Turner drew a two-out bases-loaded walk in the fourth inning to break the scoreless tie. In the eighth, Mookie Betts snapped his 2-for-34 cold spell with a solo homer, his 17th of the season.

Two runs might not be enough on most days, but that’s been plenty when Gonsolin has taken the mound this season. Gonsolin responded by retiring 10 of the first 11 batters he faced and struck out the side in the second.

“I just think he has real confidence,” Roberts said. “To have that, to develop that, it takes time and it takes consistent performance. Right now, this is as confident as he’s been in his own abilities and he’s scratching the surface on some really good things moving forward.”

Gonsolin said the driving factor behind his success has been attacking hitters with strikes and “whatever happens, happens.” Last season, Gonsolin nibbled around and the zone and walked 34 batters in 55 2/3 innings. In '22, he has walked just 20 over 63 1/3 frames.

An overwhelming splitter and slider combination has also been key for Gonsolin. But on Tuesday, it was the right-hander’s four-seam fastball that fooled the Angels’ lineup. He threw the four-seamer 42 times, recording eight swings-and-misses.

“Fastball was really good today,” Gonsolin said. “I kind of felt it in the bullpen pregame, I felt like it had some life. Today was great. Splitter started coming around a little bit, executed it when I needed to. Slider came around a lot. Curveball was solid. But overall, fastball felt good.”

Both Roberts and Gonsolin downplayed the right-hander’s impact in the rotation with Walker Buehler scheduled to miss at least three months with a Grade 2 flexor strain on his right elbow.

But the reality is that Buehler was the Dodgers’ top starter last season and was going to be a key factor in the team’s success all summer. His absence makes the Dodgers’ rotation more vulnerable. If Gonsolin can continue his success, however, the Dodgers should be able to withstand the massive blow.

So far, Gonsolin has given the Dodgers no reason to believe that his success isn’t sustainable.

“He really had his good command and he mixed in pitches he hasn’t been using percentage-wise before,” said Angels interim manager Phil Nevin. “But there’s a reason why he’s 8-0 with a mid-1.00 [ERA] and is one of the best pitchers in the league.”