Dodgers @ Braves May 22, 2023: Stone returns as the Dodgers begin their toughest week of the early season

Things are less than ideal in Dodgerland right now. The Dodgers entered this road trip having won 15 of their previous 18 games and looked to be back in the “best teams in baseball” conversation. They left LA on a bit of a sour note, with a win in the finale against Minnesota but an injury to Dustin May. Since the road trip began, the Dodgers placed May on the IL (expected to miss at least 4-6 weeks) and lost Julio Urias to a hamstring strain (ideally will return after his 15 day IL stint is up). The rotation has struggled as they’ve only had two starters pitch into the fifth inning in the last week. Starters accounted for only 25 2/3 innings last week, leaving 37 1/3 for the bullpen (H/T: Eric Stephen). Unsurprisingly, the bullpen struggled with that workload. As a whole, Dodger pitching allowed 46 earned runs and 14 homers in the seven games they played last week. It’s lowkey miraculous they went 3-4 last week.

Today begins the Dodgers’ toughest week of the early season schedule, as they play three in Atlanta (the best winning percentage in the NL) before three in Tampa Bay (the best winning percentage in the AL and in baseball). Atlanta comes into the game 29-17, percentage points ahead of the 29-19 Dodgers for the best record in the NL. They dropped four straight games heading into last week, but took four of six against a surprisingly good Rangers team and a surprisingly mediocre Mariners team.

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4:20 AM Atlanta
RF Betts RF Acuña Jr.
1B Freeman (L) 1B Olson (L)
C Smith C Murphy
3B Muncy (L) 3B Riley
DH Martinez LF Rosario (L)
LF Peralta (L) 2B Albies (S)
2B Vargas DH Ozuna
CF Outman (L) SS Arcia
SS Rojas CF Harris II (L)
P Stone (R) P Morton (R)

Gavin Stone is back up and will start today for the Dodgers. Stone had a rough outing in his debut a few weeks ago against the Phillies and got no help from the Dodger defense. After a lineout, Stone allowed a “double” in the first on a ball that landed between three defenders, issued a walk and got what should have been an inning-ending double play ball. Max Muncy couldn’t field it and loaded the bases, and Stone did a solid job getting out of that inning with only a run allowed. He bounced back with a 1-2-3 second, but allowed two doubles and four singles in the third to put the Dodgers down 5-0. He allowed another single in a scoreless fourth, which ended his day (and he got the no-decision as that game was extremely wild and Muncy redeemed himself with a walk-off grand slam).

Stone entered that game with a 4.74 ERA in six minor league starts, but has turned that around since getting demoted after that game. He’s made his two longest starts of the season in his last two games (5 1/3 and 5 2/3 innings, 91 and 93 pitches), and has allowed only three runs and seven hits. Walks are still a bit of an issue (seven in those two games), but he struck out a season-high 10 in his last outing.

Opposing Stone is Charlie Morton, who made his MLB debut in 2008, when Stone was 10. Morton is off to a great start in his 16th season, with a 2.85 ERA/3.59 FIP in 47 1/3 innings (eight starts). He’s allowed two or fewer runs in six of his eight starts and completed at least five innings in all of his outings. He’s coming off a very strong outing in Texas. He allowed seven hits and a walk, but tossed his first scoreless outing and struck out 10 batters for the first time this season. Morton saw the Dodgers once last season and allowed four runs in 5 1/3 innings. Freddie Freeman and Edwin Rios each hit homers off him.

Since 2017, Morton has generally thrown his curveball as much or more than he throws his fastball. Last season, he threw the curve 38 percent of the time and the four-seamer 33.3 percent of the time. So far this season, he’s thrown the curve 45.9 percent of the time and the four-seamer 32.3 percent. He also throws a couple fastballs with movement, a sinker (10.3 percent this season) and cutter (only 2.6 percent this season but nearly 10 percent in each of the last three years). Despite his 40th birthday coming up in November, Morton still averages 94.9 MPH on his fastball. However the curve is his money pitch, as opponents are only hitting .143 with a .190 slugging against it (expected numbers .159 and .245, respectively) and it has a 40.6 percent whiff rate.

Mookie Betts returns to the lineup after an off day yesterday.


The Dodgers got a pitcher back from Milwaukee

Gus Varland is back in the Dodger org. He was taken by Milwaukee with the 18th pick of the Rule 5 draft after not being added to the 40-man by the Dodgers in the offseason. Varland performed decently in his first eight appearances for Milwaukee this season, allowing nine hits and three runs (two earned) in eight innings. His last outing for the Brewers was a trainwreck. He faced 11 Cardinals and recorded two outs around two homers, four singles and three walks. He allowed six runs and left the bases loaded when he was removed, and an Andrew Knizner grand slam gave him nine earned on his line. He was DFA’d the next day and returns to the Dodger organization.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers revolving door continues.

Clayton Kershaw is going on the bereavement list. He made two starts after the passing of his mother the day before Mother’s Day, and he’ll be gone for a couple days. Stone takes his spot on the roster and takes May’s spot in the rotation, where he’ll likely be until May returns. Wander Suero was designated for assignment and Tayler Scott was called up. Scott has allowed two runs in 16 2/3 innings at Triple A this season. He’s pitched in 21 games in the Majors over two seasons and allowed 35 runs in 28 1/3 innings, most recently with the Padres last season.

Bobby Miller is in Atlanta and will start tomorrow in Urias’ place. Miller’s allowed nine runs in 14 1/3 minor league innings this year after he slowplayed his spring with shoulder issues. Miller was Dustin/Josh’s second-ranked prospect in their Preseason Top 33 Prospects, and he’ll make his major league debut the day after their fourth-ranked prospect.


Urias might not be out for very long.

He’ll throw a bullpen this weekend and they’re hopeful he’ll return for next weekend’s showdown with the Yankees.


First pitch is scheduled for 4:20 PM PT and will be shown on SportsNet LA.

About Alex Campos

I've been writing about the Dodgers since I graduated from Long Beach State, where I covered the Dirtbags in my senior year. I'm either very good or very bad at puns.