Manager Dave Roberts and bench coach Bob Geren stood near the third base line with their arms crossed. President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman watched while chatting with Betts. A good half-dozen Dodgers pitchers leaned against the dugout railing, watching every pitch.
No one needed to state the obvious: what they were witnessing could have a serious impact on their fortunes in the playoffs.
Tony Gonsolin, on the injured list since August. 29 with a pulled forearm, tossed teammates Gavin Lux, Chris Taylor, Hanser Alberto and Miguel Vargas. The All-Star right-hander held nothing back, throwing his four-seam fastball, slider, curveball and split-finger fastball.
Gonsolin, whose injury interrupted a breakout season that features a 16-1 record and 2.10 ERA, took a break while he relieved David Price – also on the disabled list – faced the same four batters. Gonsolin returned for another frame, and when he completed the two-set simulation known as the “up-down,” there were smiles all around.
“I thought things were good, the arm speed was good and he was using all his pitch mix, which was great,” Roberts said. “Assuming he does well, there will be a bullpen in a few days and then another live round of two to three, hopefully up and down. Really encouraging for Tony.
Equally encouraging was the ninth-inning rally to overcome a 2-1 deficit that allowed the Dodgers to split the four-game series. Cody Bellinger started with a brace – just missing a home run – and Will Smith and Max Muncy followed an intentional march to Freddie Freeman with singles on the pitch to even the score. With two outs, Betts hit Joey Gallo, fouled a full pitch and drove a single to left field to score Freeman.
Betts had the night off, but took a few hacks into the batting cage in the ninth inning in case he was needed.
“I was hoping not to knock,” Betts said, “but you find yourself in a situation that requires it and you activate your brain and you’re good to go.”
Dodgers closest Craig Kimbrel, ever wobbly, was hit by Christian Walker’s home run in the top of the ninth, breaking a tie in a game highlighted by the dominating pitch of Diamondbacks starter Zac Gallen, who struck out 13 in eight innings.
The pitcher who may be the Dodgers’ next best option as a closer — Blake Treinen — admitted Thursday he may be unable to pitch in the playoffs.
Treinen was noticeably absent during Gonsolin’s pre-match prelude. Unable to ignore the pain in his shoulder, the much-loved reliever stayed at the clubhouse to talk at length to a member of the coaching staff as Gonsolin and Price pitched.
Roberts had expressed skepticism a day earlier that Treinen would be healthy for the playoffs. The pitcher did not contradict his manager.
“The body is such a fickle thing that it’s kind of hard to bounce back the way I wanted to,” he said. “But I don’t think there’s a definitive answer yet one way or another. The only thing I can do is try to get to a point where I can be used, where I can help the team.
Hard pitcher Brusdar Graterol returned from the injured list on Thursday, a welcome addition to a bullpen anchored by right-hander Evan Phillips, southpaw Alex Vesia and Kimbrel. Treinen’s inclusion is tenuous at best.
“I would use the word frustrating,” Roberts said of Treinen’s status. “He’s not bouncing. We’re going to give him a few days without pitching, and then he’ll take a baseball on Saturday and see how he reacts.”
Gonsolin is much closer to a comeback and that would be a huge boost. After being inactive for nearly a month, his stamina might not be enough to last more than three to four innings in the playoffs. Still, he allowed just 76 hits in 128 1/3 innings.
Without him, the starting playoff rotation could consist of four southpaws: Julio Urias, Clayton Kershaw, Andrew Heaney and Tyler Anderson. All are enjoying great seasons, but Heaney and Anderson have no playoff experience. Right-hander Dustin May is in the mix, but has been inconsistent in six starts since returning from Tommy John surgery.
After punching against Gonsolin, Lux ground balls at a coach’s mushroom bat until he was huffing, huffing and sweating profusely before the game. Then he made a bad call in the third inning, spinning and throwing wildly at second base after lining up a ground player several paces to his left. The mistake led to the Diamondbacks premiere Course.
The Dodgers responded with two outs in the fourth against Gallen, who posted a devastating articulation curve in striking out the first 11 batters — six on strikeouts. Smith tripled and Muncy doubled to tie the score 1-1.
They’re the Dodgers’ only base runners in eight innings — Gallen has struck out the next 13 in a row, including seven more by strikeout. The right-hander is having a stellar season, entering the game 12-3 with a 2.52 ERA.
Roberts fired Urías in favor of Phillips after the Diamondbacks’ first two batters of the sixth inning swooped the ball — Stone Garrett doubling to left center and Emmanuel Rivera lining up at Muncy at third. Urías threw 89 – 62 strikes – while allowing three hits and striking out five. Phillips struck out two batters to end the threat, Vesia retired the side in the seventh, and Graterol threw one, two, three in the eighth.
Much to the Dodgers’ delight, the Diamondbacks replaced Gallen in the ninth with Reyes Moronta, who the Dodgers designated for assignment several weeks ago. Neither Moronta nor southpaw Joe Mantiply were up to the task, and Betts – his brain was clearly on – delivered.