ST. LOUIS — Anything that didn’t threaten the supply of baseballs would have been an improvement. The Dodgers’ pitching staff cleared that low bar easily.
Tony Gonsolin and four relievers combined on a two-hit shutout as the Dodgers and Mookie Betts broke the game open with a three-run home run to beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 5-0, on Friday night.
A night after they combined for a Busch Stadium III record nine home runs – seven by the Cardinals – the closest anyone came to leaving the yard in the first seven innings was Paul Goldschmidt.
Leading off the sixth inning against Dodgers reliever Brusdar Graterol, Goldschmidt drove a ball 401 feet to center field. James Outman ran it down, leaping and banging into the wall as he reached up and robbed Goldschmidt of a home run to protect the Dodgers’ 1-0 lead.
The only run to that point was set up when one of the best defensive players of his generation – Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado – made a throwing error.
That allowed Betts to reach base leading off the fifth inning. He was the Dodgers’ seventh baserunner in the game to that point. The previous six – including doubles by Freddie Freeman, Miguel Vargas and J.D. Martinez – had all been stranded with the Dodgers going 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position.
Betts tried to take matters into his own hands. He tagged up and advanced to second base on Freeman’s fly out then had third base stolen on a pitch Will Smith fouled off. A balk by Cardinals starter Steven Matz got Betts to third base before Martinez drew a walk.
That brought up Chris Taylor, who had just one hit in his previous 21 at-bats. But Matz left a 2-and-2 fastball up and out over the plate and Taylor lashed it into left field for an RBI double.
That was all the offensive support the Dodgers offered Gonsolin, who boldly went where no Dodgers’ starting pitcher had gone – since Gonsolin’s previous start when he went five innings against the Padres on Sunday.
In the four games since then, Dodgers starters had pitched a combined total of 12 innings, leaning heavily on an overworked bullpen.
A 30-pitch first inning doomed any hope of Gonsolin getting truly deep into the game. But he pitched five scoreless innings for the second consecutive start, allowing just one hit and walking three, and hasn’t given up an earned run in his past 16 innings.
Graterol and Shelby Miller protected the 1-0 lead until the Dodgers’ offense broke through for four runs after there were two outs in the eighth.
More to come on this story.