Tony Gonsolin effective as Dodgers blank resurgent Mets

When he bought the New York Mets two offseasons ago, billionaire Steve Cohen cited the Dodgers as an organization to emulate in order to model his own club after the spending, consistently winning giant in the big market across the coast .

On Thursday, Cohen and the Mets got a firsthand example of all the reasons why.

In the opening game of a much-anticipated weekend series between the top two teams in the National League so far this season, the Dodgers showed their organizational prowess and earned a 2-0 win at Dodger Stadium.

A superb performance by the staff on the mound was highlighted by six scoreless innings from Tony Gonsolin, a homegrown talent who was once an afterthought in the team’s rotation but now leads the NL with a 1.59 ERA.

A high-priced, high-profile lineup did just enough on the plate, producing a fifth-inning run on Mookie Betts RBI single and another in the sixth inning on Justin Turner’s RBI double while beating the Mets 8-3.

And while the teams finished the night atop the league standings with 17 games over .500 nearly two months into the season, the Dodgers made an early statement in a matchup that could very well define this season’s pennant race.

“I think people have this series marked on their calendars,” said manager Dave Roberts.

The Dodgers attempted to tone down the importance of this week’s series ahead of the first pitch.

Roberts brushed aside any notion that this was a dipstick or a litmus test suite. First baseman Freddie Freeman said the team was simply trying to recover from a confusing three-game sweep by the Pittsburgh Pirates earlier this week.

“You just have to play good baseball,” Freeman said. “Yeah, the Mets are on the other side. They have good players. I think it’s just going to be a great series.”

While this is familiar territory for the Dodgers, the Mets are entering relatively new territory.

After their best start in more than 30 years, they’ve ridden a resurgent offense and makeshift pitching staff to a double-digit game advantage in the NL East.

Even without their best two arms — Jacob deGrom has yet to pitch out this season from a stress reaction in his right shoulder blade, and former Dodgers ace Max Scherzer has been sidelined with an oblique strain in recent weeks — they still finished 10th in the Majors in Team ERA.

And a lineup that was once an annual disappointment has grown into their most encouraging development yet, trailing only the Dodgers in runs-per-game and on-base plus slugging percentage.

“You have people who can count, that can be a plague on the plate,” Roberts said. “They can produce, they can beat you.”

Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner hits an RBI double against the New York Mets.

Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner hits an RBI double against the New York Mets in the sixth inning Thursday at Dodger Stadium.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The Mets’ nearly $288 million salary bill — second only to the Dodgers but worth even more given Trevor Bauer’s empty salary — also has expectations in Cohen’s first full year of owning the team , elevated.

At Cohen’s first meeting with the media after his purchase in November 2020, he referred to the Dodgers by name and pointed to them when asked which MLB club he wanted to model the Mets after.

“I like what the Dodgers are doing,” he said. “They have a really strong farm system. They take advantage of opportunities in the free agent and trade market. They also run a pretty good business.”

Recalling those comments on Thursday, Roberts smiled mischievously.

“What they say is for the best [form] of flattery?” Roberts said, adding, “We’ve done a great job. So if there is someone you want to emulate – a smart man.”

Once a division nemesis for the Mets while with the Atlanta Braves, Freeman has had a front row seat in many of the club’s recent struggles, including five straight seasons without a playoff berth.

“They’ve always had a good team,” Freeman said. “They put it together this year.”

On Thursday, however, the Dodgers were superior.

Giving up two hits and a walk in his latest gem, Gonsolin continued to liven up a Dodgers rotation that could have more reinforcements on the way, with Clayton Kershaw and Andrew Heaney both due to go on rehab duties this weekend.

Betts continued his blistering pace at the plate, going two for four to take his batting average to a .310.

Even Craig Kimbrel, who was approaching, got back on track and made his 11th save after a two-day hiatus.

“Together,” said Roberts, “we did a really good job.”

And then some throwing an opening punch against the team that seems to be their biggest threat up to this point. Tony Gonsolin effective as Dodgers blank resurgent Mets

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