Tony Gonsolin continues stellar start as Dodgers beat Angels

The first time Tony Gonsolin left the mound mid-inning Tuesday night, it was by accident that the Dodgers starter headed for the dugout early when he mistakenly thought the second out in the third inning was the third.

In the top of the seventh, Gonsolin again cleared the gum in the middle of an inning. This time, however, there was no confusion. When manager Dave Roberts came to pull him off after 6 ⅓ an inning scoreless, he had no choice.

The Dodgers defeated the Angels in the first of a two-game Freeway series at Dodger Stadium and won in the fourth, a solo home run by Mookie Betts, 2-0 behind a base-loaded walk by Angels starter Noah Syndergaard Eighth and a save by Craig Kimbrel in the ninth after escaping a base-laden traffic jam.

However, Gonsolin was the biggest factor in continuing his excellent start to the season, improving to 8-0 and dropping his ERA to 1.42 – both major league highs.

Still, it was Roberts’ decision to remove Gonsolin with an out in the seventh and the pitcher’s ensuing reaction that best illustrated the current state of the Dodgers’ season.

With Walker Buehler out until at least late August or early September with a strained elbow, the Dodgers need other staff to play like an ace.

So far, Gonsolin has looked most like the role, using his evil fastball splinter slider arsenal to once again hit the Angels in a one-hit, two-walk, six-strikeout start.

However, Gonsolin has not played a full season since 2019. And as sharp as he looked, the Dodgers are trying to protect his health in the long run.

Even though Gonsolin had thrown just 86 pitches — most of them stress-free on a night the Angels, even with outfielder Taylor Ward back in their lineup, couldn’t get a runner in goal position against him — Roberts chose to come get the starter in the seventh and summon left-handed helper Caleb Ferguson with left-handed slugger Jared Walsh on deck.

Gonsolin didn’t look pleased at the moment and reluctantly passed the ball before gently shaking his head on the way back to the dugout.

The Dodgers will likely have more nights like Tuesday, trying to make up for Buehler’s absence while not pushing the rest of their staff too far.

Before the game, Buehler spoke to reporters about his injury for the first time since his diagnosis Saturday, a day after he was forced to retire a start against the San Francisco Giants.

Angels' Shohei Ohtani is tagged second by Dodgers second baseman Gavin Lux.

Angels’ Shohei Ohtani is tagged second by Dodgers second baseman Gavin Lux as he tries to steal during the fourth inning Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Buehler said he’s “as confident as you can be” about returning this season, given the severity of what he said was a Grade 2 flexor tendon strain. He said he’ll be shut down for six weeks and likely will be for at least 10-12 weeks do not become active again.

Buehler also said he underwent arthroscopic surgery Monday, performed by team doctor Neal ElAttrache, to remove a bone spur from his elbow – a problem he’s had for the past three years and decided to address it now, as it will not affect his return schedule.

“Kind of killing two birds with one stone,” he said. “We take six weeks, see where we stand and then build up.”

Buehler acknowledged that the recovery process can be “a tricky thing,” adding, “You never know what’s going to happen on the other side of these things.”

Roberts also warned the 27-year-old has a long way to go – both physically and mentally.

“No player wants to go through that and you kind of feel alienated, isolated,” Roberts said. “So we’re going to make sure he’s involved and relevant, but it’s going to be a tough, lonely road for a while.”

As Tuesday’s game showed, things won’t be easy for the Dodgers either, making their decisions with the pitching team even more complex, at least for the next few months.

Heaney starts rehab

Pitcher Andrew Heaney made what is likely to be his last rehab start on Sunday, scoring five innings with nine strikeouts for the club’s Double-A affiliate in Tulsa. Heaney, who has been out since April with a shoulder injury, could be ready to return to the team as early as Sunday.

violation of the referee

Home plate umpire Nate Tomlinson left the game in the ninth inning after Mike Trout’s bat broke during a swing and hit Tomlinson in the face. The bat’s broken end appeared to hit Tomlinson through a slit in his mask, cutting him above the eye and also injuring his nose. Second base umpire Laz Diaz took over from behind home plate for the remainder of the ninth game. Tony Gonsolin continues stellar start as Dodgers beat Angels

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