Dodgers rookie Tony Gonsolin to focus on 'controlling the emotions' in Game 6 start

Jorge Castillo
·5 min read
Dodgers starting pitcher Tony Gonsolin delivers during Game 7 of the NLCS.
The Dodgers' Tony Gonsolin pitches in Game 7 of the NLCS at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers spent Monday, what could be their final day before becoming World Series champions, isolated from the world in a resort outside Dallas. It was their 25th day in the bubble. The hotel has become home for this strange playoff run. It wasn’t how they envisioned ending their 32-year title drought, but 2020 doesn’t care for expectations or convenience.

They would like nothing more than to end their residency after Game 6 of the World Series at Globe Life Field on Tuesday night.

The Dodgers hold a three-games-to-two series lead over the Tampa Bay Rays. A fourth win separates them from their first championship since 1988. Orel Hershiser, that year’s National League Cy Young Award winner, threw all nine innings in the title-clinching Game 5 against the Oakland Athletics. On Tuesday, the Dodgers will give the ball to Tony Gonsolin, a rookie making his 17th career start.

“Try to not put more pressure on myself than there already is,” Gonsolin said. “I’ll try to go out there and throw the ball to the best of my ability. Nothing changes.”

Blake Snell, the 2018 American League Cy Young Award winner, will start for the Rays. The left-hander carried a no-hit bid into the fifth inning in Game 2 but didn’t survive the fifth. He gave up two runs on two hits. He walked four and struck out nine.

Gonsolin said he was told he would start Game 6, if there was one, after he opened Game 2 opposite Snell. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Gonsolin will be a conventional starter, not an opener again.

“I hope to get five or six innings,” Roberts said. “That would be great. As much as people want to say there's a script, the game plays out. So, I'm going to watch him pitch and then we'll see what we do after that. But I do know what guys will be available. I want him to go as long as he possibly can. That would be great.”

Roberts said every pitcher besides Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler and Julio Urías will be available Tuesday. He said the organization considered having Buehler, who dominated in Game 3, start on three days’ rest but decided to save him for a potential winner-take-all Game 7.

“There’s already guaranteed, at worst, Game 7,” Roberts said. “So it just doesn't make sense for Walker. He hasn't done it. There's a blister component that we've dealt with. It just brings that more into play without the extra day. We thought it through.”

Tuesday’s start will mark the end to a roller-coaster season for the 26-year-old Gonsolin, who reported to summer camp late after testing positive for the coronavirus and didn’t make the opening day roster. He was called up to make a spot start eight days into the season but returned to the Dodgers’ alternate site at USC for two weeks before he was recalled again. He ended up sticking.

Gonsolin’s performances were strong enough for the Dodgers to include him in their postseason plans and feel comfortable trading Ross Stripling, an established veteran, at the trade deadline for prospects. Gonsolin finished the season with a 2.31 earned-run average and 46 strikeouts to seven walks in 46 2/3 innings across nine games. On Monday, Baseball America named him the publication’s rookie of the year.

But October has been a struggle. He went two weeks before making his playoff debut in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves on Oct. 13. He logged three perfect innings with four strikeouts but encountered trouble in the fourth. He exited with one out in the fifth and was charged with five runs. That was his last conventional start.

His second outing was as a reliever in Game 7 of the NLCS. He yielded two runs in two innings. Three days later, he opened Game 2 of the World Series — a Dodgers loss — on two days’ rest. He surrendered a run on a home run by Brandon Lowe in 1 1/3 innings.

“Every outing I've had this postseason has been a learning opportunity for me,” Gonsolin said. “It's all new. It's on a much higher stage than the last time I was in a postseason. Just kind of controlling the emotions and still competing.”

Overall, he’s yielded eight runs and six hits in 7 2/3 innings in the three appearances. He’s given up three home runs after yielding two in the regular season. But Game 6 will be the first time he will start on regular rest since he logged six innings in his final start of the regular season against the Angels a month ago.

“I've had a lot of time to prepare,” Gonsolin said, “and it feels like I'm back on like a normal routine like I had all season.”

Gonsolin and several other pitchers spent time Monday throwing at Globe Life Field. DJ Peters, a minor league outfielder, went through drills at first base. It was an optional workout day on a dreary Monday in North Texas.

Plans later, according to Roberts, included an engagement party for Brusdar Graterol’s fiancee coordinated by players’ wives and a massive order of barbecue.

“People are excited about barbecue coming into the bubble,” Roberts reported.

Roberts will then begin Tuesday with his go-to hotel breakfast order in the bubble: oatmeal with brown sugar, 2% reduced fat milk, some berries, eggs over medium, a side of bacon, and a cup of coffee.

He said he looks forward to it every morning. If the Dodgers have their way, he will only need to make the order one last time, the morning after Major League Baseball’s first alcohol-soaked celebration in this pandemic-altered postseason. Texas has become home, but they’re ready to finally bring a World Series championship to Los Angeles.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.