Velocity is down, but results are up for Tony Gonsolin in Dodgers’ 5-1 win

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 13: Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Tony Gonsolin delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday, June 13, 2023 in Los Angeles, CA. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Tony Gonsolin delivers a pitch during the first inning Tuesday. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

A diminished fastball did not equal diminishing returns for Dodgers right-hander Tony Gonsolin, who blanked the Chicago White Sox on two hits through six innings of Tuesday night’s 5-1 victory before a crowd of 45,561 in Chavez Ravine.

Gonsolin, pitching on six days’ rest–two more than normal–because the Dodgers felt he needed more recovery time between starts, struck out six, walked two and allowed only one runner to reach second base.

Leaning heavily on his split-finger changeup and four-seam fastball and mixing in his curveball and slider, Gonsolin gave up only a single to left-center field by Andrew Vaughn in the fourth and an infield single to Yoán Moncada in the sixth. He induced swinging strikes on nine of 90 pitches.

“I think the extra couple of days really helped me,” Gonsolin said. “For whatever reason, I just didn’t come out of this last start super great. I wasn’t bouncing back right away. It was kind of weird, honestly. I haven’t really experienced something like that, but I feel a lot better now.”

Gonsolin, who missed the first four weeks of the season because of a left ankle sprain, improved to 4-1 with a 1.93 earned-run average in nine starts, but his stuff has not seemed as crisp as it was during his breakout season in 2022, when he went 16-1 with a 2.14 ERA in 24 starts and made his first All-Star team.

The average velocity of Gonsolin’s four-seamer has dropped in each of the last four seasons, from 95.1 mph in 2020 to 93.8 mph in 2021, to 93.1 mph in 2022 and 92.5 mph in 2023 before Tuesday.

Even more concerning for the Dodgers is that Gonsolin has had some trouble maintaining his velocity from inning to inning in some starts.

“I think when he came back, when the governor was on [and he was limited to] three innings, four innings, five innings, I just saw a little bit more consistent velocity, whereas in the last couple, I think he tried to hold back some,” manager Dave Roberts said before the game. “When Tony is at his best, it’s 93 to 95 mph every pitch.”

Gonsolin wasn’t in that range Tuesday night, his fastball averaging just 91.1 mph, but his velocity ticked up as the game went on. After averaging 90.2 mph in the first two innings, Gonsolin touched 91.9 mph in the third and 93.5 mph in the fifth.

“It’s interesting because he says as the game keeps going, he feels stronger, and the velocity speaks to that,” Roberts said. “And the secondary [stuff] still had teeth to it. Even with the 90-mph fastball at times in the first three innings, they were still late on it because he was sequencing so well.”

Gonsolin, who will make his next start Sunday on regular rest, had some margin for error, an offense that leads the major leagues with 115 home runs giving him a four-run cushion when Will Smith and David Peralta hit two-run homers off White Sox starter Lance Lynn in the first.

Freddie Freeman walked with one out, and Smith got his bobblehead night off to a rollicking start by smashing a 93-mph sinker 413 feet into the left-center field pavilion for his 10th homer.

Jason Heyward rolled a single up the middle, and Peralta, who is batting .425 (17 for 40) with two homers and seven RBIs in 13 games since May 24, crushed a first-pitch cut-fastball 407 feet to center for his fourth homer and a 4-0 lead.

The Dodgers have scored a major league-high 59 runs in the first inning this season.

“I don’t know,” Smith said, when asked why the Dodgers have a knack for first-inning outbursts. “I guess we’ve got some pretty good hitters up there. You know, just taking good at-bats. We have a good approach, and more times than not, we execute.”

The Dodgers tacked on with a Miguel Vargas sacrifice fly for a 5-0 lead in the sixth. Left-hander Caleb Ferguson, who was 0-3 with a 21.00 ERA and a blown save in his previous four games, retired the side in order with two strikeouts in the seventh.

Evan Phillips threw a one-two-three eighth, and Tayler Scott gave up a run in the ninth, as the Dodgers washed the sour taste of their 2-4 trip to Cincinnati and Philadelphia out of their mouths.

“For us to catch an early lead was a big lift and probably a gut punch to those guys,” Roberts said. “It did a lot for the mind and the dugout.”

Short hops

Max Muncy suffered a mild left-hamstring strain in Sunday’s loss in Philadelphia, and the third baseman did not play Tuesday night. Roberts said Muncy will undergo an MRI exam Wednesday but is not expected to be put on the injured list.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.