As he’d done during Tony Gonsolin’s previous two starts this year, left-hander Tyler Anderson began throwing pitches in the bullpen during the early innings Wednesday.
This time, however, the Dodgers had no need for the bulk reliever.
In a 5-1 win against the Atlanta Braves, Gonsolin was dealing.
After two solid but short starts to begin the season, Gonsolin produced one of his best career performances in Wednesday’s matinee.
He pitched six scoreless innings, effectively managing his pitch count in what was his longest start since 2020. He carried a no-hitter through five innings, facing more than the three minimum batters in an inning just twice.
And on a day the Dodgers (9-3) announced fellow starter Andrew Heaney was being placed on the injured list with left shoulder discomfort – creating an opening in the starting rotation Anderson is the likeliest candidate to fill – Gonsolin alleviated some of the concern by silencing a talented Braves lineup and helping the Dodgers clinch the series with a rubber-match win.
Gonsolin followed a simple recipe Wednesday. Despite struggling to locate his fastball, he attacked the Braves (6-8) with his secondary pitches, inducing weak ground balls and soft contact in the air with an assortment of sliders, splitters and curveballs.
Following a one-two-three first inning, Gonsolin erased a one-out walk in the second by getting Orlando Arcia to hit into a double play. After retiring the side in order again in the third, the right-hander stranded a two-out walk in the fourth by fanning Adam Duvall with a slider, one of three strikeouts on the day.
Gonsolin did not give up a hit until Manny Piña reached on an infield single against the shift to lead off the sixth. That was immediately followed by another double-play grounder off the bat of Dansby Swanson.
After failing to complete six innings in any of his 13 starts last year – when the former ninth-round draft pick was dogged by a shoulder injury and inconsistent stuff outing to outing – Gonsolin finished his day by getting Matt Olson to hit an easy popup to shortstop.
It was the third time in his four-year career he’d pitched six scoreless innings.
In his first two appearances this year, Gonsolin had been spelled by Anderson both times. Though Gonsolin had limited damage in each, entering Wednesday having permitted just one run on the season, he had struggled to work deep into either outing, requiring Anderson to pitch multiple innings in relief after him.
It seemed likely the Dodgers would favor that plan again against the Braves, until news of Heaney’s injury came down less than an hour before first pitch.
Anderson, a starter in his first six MLB seasons before signing with the Dodgers this spring, suddenly became the most natural option to replace Heaney as the scheduled starter on Saturday.
Anderson still got up to throw during Wednesday’s game, but it appeared to be more of a routine bullpen session than a typical warm-up. He tossed off the mound for the duration of two innings. Gavin Lux (who sat out his second straight game Wednesday because of back discomfort) stood in the box throughout to see pitches.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, bounced back from Tuesday’s loss with a quick strike in the first inning. Mookie Betts led off with a single to end an 0-for-13 skid. Then Freddie Freeman hit a two-run homer, bouncing a low line drive off the top of the wall in the right field, the first of his three hits on the day.
The Dodgers added on in the fifth, courtesy of Edwin Ríos’ first home run of the season; in the sixth, when Cody Bellinger lined an RBI triple to right for his second hit of the game; and the seventh, when Justin Turner sent an RBI single up the middle.
With Heaney out and the passage pitching depth being tested for the first time, the Dodgers might need more offensive days in the near future. But on Wednesday, all that production was superfluous.
Once Gonsolin hit a groove, the Braves hardly threatened at the plate.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.