Dodgers @ Pirates June 9, 2021: Tony Gonsolin returns

The Dodgers (35-25) took the first game of the series against the Pirates (23-36) last night relatively effortlessly by a score of 5-3. The bullpen tried to make it interesting, but the Pirates’ offense didn’t have enough firepower to overcome seven scoreless innings by Walker Buehler.

Tony Gonsolin will be making his season debut against a struggling Pittsburgh offense, as the left-handed Tyler Anderson starts for the Pirates. The Dodgers currently trail the Giants (38-23) by two and a half games in the NL West, and the Padres (37-26) by half a game. Of those teams however, they do have the worst road record at just 16-15, compared to 19-10 at home. They’ll look to improve on that record tonight and grab a series win.

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4:05 PM Pittsburgh
RF Betts 2B Frazier (L)
2B Taylor 3B Hayes
3B Turner CF Reynolds (S)
1B Pujols 1B Moran (L)
CF Bellinger (L) RF Polanco (L)
LF Pollock SS Newman
C Smith C Perez (L)
SS Lux (L) LF Tom (L)
P Gonsolin (R) P Anderson (L)

The Dodgers will adjust their lineup against the left-handed Anderson, so that Cody Bellinger and Gavin Lux are the only left-handed starters tonight. The only real change that comes from this is Max Muncy taking the day off to rest his ankle as Albert Pujols gets the start.

The Pirates do make a few changes, with the left-handed Michael Perez starting at catcher after a pinch hit home run last night. Additionally, Ka’ai Tom will start in left field over the right-handed Phillip Evans. This is the complete opposite as the Dodgers’ lineup, as Kevin Newman and Ke’Bryan Hayes will be the only right-handed batters in their lineup.

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Obviously Gonsolin hasn’t pitched this year. He’ll be making his season debut after missing the first two months of the season with shoulder inflammation. He’s built up to go roughly five innings but is likely on a pitch count that I’d assume is around 70-80 pitches. He made three starts with OKC building back up, with a 3.48 ERA over ten and one third innings. I’ll copy my little excerpt from last night, “Among 111 pitchers last season that logged at least 40 innings, Tony Gonsolin was fifth in FIP at 2.29, trailing Corbin Burnes, Shane Bieber, Yu Darvish, and Jacob deGrom. His 2.31 ERA was eleventh, and his 0.84 WHIP was fourth. Obviously, the expectations aren’t that he repeats that, but he was great last year in the short season, and getting him back should be a big boost.” With that season last year, there wasn’t a chance to build up any sort of significant sample size, but it appears that Gonsolin didn’t really feature any splits against left or right-handed batters. He allowed a .535 OPS and .232 wOBA against left-handed batters, compared to a .501 OPS and .220 wOBA against right-handed batters. I also referenced it yesterday, but the Pirates have the 27th ranked wRC+ against right-handed pitching at 83, and the lowest OPS at .652. Couldn’t really ask for a better team or opportunity to make your season debut against.

Anderson is in his first year with the Pirates, after spending one with San Francisco and four with Colorado. He currently has a 4.67 ERA, 4.17 FIP, and a 1.20 WHIP. He’s coming off a start against the Marlins, where he allowed three earned runs on five hits and no walks while striking out four across 5.1 innings. Prior to his last two starts, he had an outing against the Braves where he allowed nine runs on ten hits and two walks over five innings. If you remove that start, he has a 3.65 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. Unfortunately that’s not how it works, but I do think he’s pitching better than his numbers show thus far. He sits around 90 MPH with his fastball, mixing in a mid 80’s cutter and a changeup in the low 80’s. After pitching in the NL West for five seasons, he has 71 career innings against the Dodgers with a 4.69 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP.

He does have a little advantage here. The Dodgers don’t have any incredibly glaring weaknesses outside of a very questionable bullpen, but they have had legitimate issues against left-handed pitching. Their OPS and wRC+ against LHP are both eighteenth in baseball at .703 and 97. Not ideal. With a minimum of thirty plate appearances against left-handed pitching, the Dodgers’ best batter has been … Albert Pujols. He’s slashed .357/.400/.750, good for an OPS of 1.150, and a wRC+ of 213. After him, the best performers against left-handed pitching are Max Muncy (1.065 OPS, 194 wRC+), Chris Taylor (1.066 OPS, 186 wRC+), and Mookie Betts (.842 OPS, 136 wRC+).

It’s nice to see Betts with a bit of a resurgence against left-handed pitching even though his overall offensive production is slightly below his average and expectations. Last season he had a 56 wRC+ and .531 OPS against LHP compared to 181 wRC+ and 1.061 OPS against RHP. This season he has an .842 OPS and 136 wRC+ against LHP, and a .799 OPS and 127 wRC+ against RHP. We like to see that.

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Best to just keep Muncy safe.

Yoshi Tsutsugo was placed on the 10-day IL with a calf strain, while Scott Alexander was transferred to the 60-day IL with left shoulder inflammation retroactive to 5/3.

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First pitch is at 4:05 PM PDT on SNLA.

First pitch is at 5 PM PDT now.

About Allan Yamashige

Just a guy living in Southern California, having a good time writing about baseball. Hated baseball practice as a kid, but writing about it rules. Thanks for reading!