Gonsolin's June swoon carries over into first July start

July 2nd, 2023

KANSAS CITY -- This wasn’t how the Dodgers expected this road trip to go.

A six-game tour to Colorado and Kansas City, two of three teams with the worst records in MLB, concluded with a 3-3 mark after a disappointing 9-1 loss to the Royals on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium.

The loss snapped the Dodgers’ three-series win streak, and several areas of concern emerged by the end of the weekend.

But none bigger than starting pitching.

Bobby Miller pitched well in the opener, but he was the only starter to finish the fourth inning against an offense that entered the series ranked 29th in runs per game. The Royals’ 15 runs over the past two games were the most Kansas City has scored in a two-game stretch since May 7-8.

, who had a 1.95 ERA in six starts in May, continued his struggles that started once the calendar flipped to June. Gonsolin had a 5.82 ERA last month, but the number has spiked to 9.42 over his past three starts after allowing four runs over 3 2/3 innings against Kansas City on Sunday, his shortest outing since Opening Day.

Gonsolin has now allowed four or more runs in each of his past three appearances.

“I just haven’t been really good lately,” Gonsolin said. “Feel like I’ve been walking a lot of guys, falling behind in counts and just not executing pitches.”

Gonsolin left the mound visibly frustrated when manager Dave Roberts pulled him before he could get out of the fourth. He had five three-ball counts and threw 49 of his 81 pitches for strikes.

Gonsolin threw his slider 16 times, and the Royals swung and missed on it twice.

“I think the thing that stands out most is he just hasn’t had a slider,” Roberts said. “With [right-handed hitters], the equalizer has been the slider, and he just hasn’t had it. It doesn’t have the bite. It’s been up in the zone and he’s not getting the swing and miss that we’re accustomed to.”

Gonsolin’s early exit forced the bullpen into extended duty for the second consecutive day after Julio Urías, who made his first start since May 18 on Saturday, gave up five runs in the first.

And that’s in addition to Clayton Kershaw’s left shoulder inflammation, which Roberts said has forced the Dodgers to bring Michael Grove onto the taxi squad in case Kershaw is unable to start his game Monday against the Pirates.

If Kershaw can’t pitch, a bullpen that entered the series ranked 26th in the Majors in ERA (4.62) may need to eat a majority of the innings once again.

Part of the reason why the Dodgers’ pitchers struggled to close out innings was because of how Kansas City hitters took advantage of opportunities on the basepaths. There were multiple instances on Saturday and Sunday where the Royals used speed to outmaneuver Los Angeles.

Two runs scored on shallow sac flies in Saturday's 6-4 loss, and aggressive baserunning on a ball to Jason Heyward in right allowed an extra run to score Sunday. Only three of the Royals’ 15 hits were extra-base hits, but two sac bunts advanced runners that eventually came around to score.

Roberts admitted it was a style of play the Dodgers were both unaccustomed to and unable to stop.

“Those guys outplayed us,” Roberts said. “It’s a different brand of baseball, as far as putting the ball in play, hitting behind runners, stealing bases. They were excellent in situational hitting. And so to be quite honest, we couldn’t keep up. And that’s how they beat us. That’s how they won the series.”

And it’s something the Dodgers have struggled with all season. Los Angeles has given up the most stolen bases in the Majors in 2023.

“[Stolen bases] don’t always come back to haunt us, but it adds stress to every inning,” Roberts said. “Teams like that have gone from first to third, stealing on short fly balls, balls in the dirt, hitting behind runners. This has got us, and I think that’s a common thread with teams that have beat us.”

The Dodgers started the road trip looking to gain ground in a competitive NL West, but instead will head back to Los Angeles the same place they started, three games behind the D-backs for first place.

“Obviously, if you look at it on paper, yeah, we should have won the game,” Roberts said. “But we all understand that you don’t play it on paper. And like I said, they played a better, well-rounded baseball game.”