The top starting staff in the major leagues finally has a fifth starter, although right-hander Tony Gonsolin is merely auditioning for a bullpen spot in the upcoming playoffs at this point.
Gonsolin will make his second start since returning from the injured list when he faces the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium, as Los Angeles (92-53) finally is free of the bullpen games that have marked the past two months.
The Dodgers' starters lead the majors in ERA (2.82), WHIP (1.02) and lowest opponents' batting average (.206).
Currently with a magic number of two for clinching a playoff spot, Los Angeles also has a starting staff that includes Cy Young Award candidates Julio Urias, Walker Buehler and Max Scherzer. Clayton Kershaw came back from the injured list Monday and pitched well, throwing 4 1/3 innings of one-run ball as the Dodgers beat the Diamondbacks 5-1.
Gonsolin knows the deal, but he also knows he still can be a key contributor in October.
He was used as a swingman in last season's playoffs, making four appearances. Three of those were starts, with two in the World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays that were more of the opener variety as he went less than two innings in each.
Gonsolin (2-1, 2.79 ERA) would gladly accept whatever role is available this October and can take further steps toward proving it Tuesday. In his return from shoulder inflammation Thursday at St. Louis, he gave up one run on three hits over three innings.
"It felt great," Gonsolin said. "I tried not to look at the (radar) gun too much. I definitely did after that first pitch. I kind of wanted to see where I was at. Then as I got more comfortable, I felt like it was coming out a lot better. But it was definitely nice to see 96 (mph). Yes, the velo's there, and I felt a lot more comfortable on the mound."
In seven career appearances (six starts) against the Diamondbacks, Gonsolin is 0-2 with a 4.28 ERA.
Arizona will send right-hander Luke Weaver (3-4, 4.24 ERA) to the mound Tuesday. He can compare recovery notes with Gonsolin after missing more than three months with a shoulder strain. In two starts since returning from the IL, he is 1-1 with a 3.27 ERA over 11 innings.
He lost to the Texas Rangers on Wednesday, giving up three runs on four hits in five innings. He fanned four and walked two.
Weaver has faced the Dodgers six times in his career, making four starts, and is 1-2 with a 7.25 ERA. At Dodger Stadium, he is 1-1 with a 5.25 ERA in 12 innings.
The Diamondbacks got more help for the pitching staff Monday with the return of right-hander Tyler Clippard, who was activated from the COVID-19 IL.
It has been a rough season for the Diamondbacks (47-97), a fact that has been most evident in the team's play against the NL West. Arizona is just 2-12 against the Dodgers and has a 19-46 record in division games. Only the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles have fewer division victories.
"We have to be better in a lot of areas," Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said Monday. "We haven't had a very good record against the NL West, and that's also something that needs to be looked at. You have to win baseball games and play good baseball. That's the bottom line. We're gonna find our way there."
--Field Level Media