With the team ahead of them in the standings playing “catch us if you can,” the Dodgers tried to do just that in Friday at Chase Field in Phoenix. A slew of defensive gems highlighted the Dodgers’ 4-2 win over the Diamondbacks in the opener of a weekend series.
Coupled with the Giants’ win in Colorado, the Dodgers remained one game back of San Francisco in the National League West, with eight games to play.
The first such play was made by AJ Pollock, playing his 344th career game at Chase Field. The former D-backs outfielder made his second start after returning to the Dodgers from the injured list earlier this week.
Pollock made his presence known immediately in the bottom of the first, leaping to catch a drive from leadoff man Josh Rojas at the left field wall. Robbing extra bases was impressive enough, but Pollock also had the presence of mind to catch his cap after it fell off his head while making the catch.
Doing it with the glove AND the bat. pic.twitter.com/sUAxIO6vQx— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) September 25, 2021
In the next half inning, a Will Smith double was cashed in by a Justin Turner single for the first run of the game. Pollock followed by hitting an 0-2 pitch 430 feet to left center for a two-run home run.
Pollock has 11 extra-base hits in 10 games against his old team this season, hitting .476 (20 for 42).
“This was home for me for a long time,” Pollock told Kirsten Watson on SportsNet LA. “Just coming out here, I’m familiar with the park, I’m familiar with everything. Visually it looks comfortable, I’m used to it. It feels pretty nice.”
Gavin Lux, playing in just his third professional game in center field, made the second highlight-reel grab. With one out in the fourth inning and Daulton Varsho on first base, Kole Calhoun ripped a ball to the gap in right center, destined for extra bases. But instead of pulling the D-backs closer and putting the tying run in scoring position, the speedy Lux ran the ball down on the warning track. Varsho was already between second and third base, making for an easy double play to end the frame.
“It was incredible,” said starting pitcher Tony Gonsolin. “Any ball put in play in the air, there’s a chance it’s going to get caught.”
For good measure, Chris Taylor, playing in the field for the first time since Sunday after entering as a pinch-hitter, made two incredible sprawling catches in the ninth inning in left field, double-switched in for Pollock. I guess his neck is feeling better!
CT3 putting on a clinic. pic.twitter.com/zLp0fGdlUP— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) September 25, 2021
“I’m glad he was out there,” Pollock said to Watson. “I’m not sure I’m making any of those plays. We might still be playing if Chris Taylor wasn’t out there.”
The great catches helped Gonsolin, who even allowing those drives was very efficient. He matched his season high with seven strikeouts in five innings. He allowed two runs, one on a home run to Calhoun, and another on a two-out single after Pavin Smith reached on a strikeout wild pitch in the fifth.
Perhaps most importantly, Gonsolin walked nobody for just the second time this year, after entering Friday with a 15.9-percent walk rate. Gonsolin since returning from his second injured list stint with shoulder inflammation has a 3.52 ERA, 3.68 FIP, and 29.5-percent strikeout rate in four games.
“As far as fastball command, that’s always been good. I don’t put a whole lot of stock into what he’s done this year. It’s been kind of a trying year,” Roberts said. “He’s healthy now, and looking at what he’s done recently and going forward, I think the command will show what we’re used to.”
- Blake Treinen walked a pair in the eighth inning and threw a season-high 29 pitches, but escaped the jam with a flyout by Varsho and a strikeout of Calhoun to keep the lead at two runs.
- Kenley Jansen recorded his 347th career save, tying Randy Myers for 13th place on the all-time list.
Home runs: AJ Pollock (17); Kole Calhoun (5)
WP — Tony Gonsolin (4-1): 5 IP, 3 hits, 2 runs, 7 strikeouts
LP — Humberto Castellanos (2-2): 5 IP, 5 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks, 1 strikeout
Sv — Kenley Jansen (35): 1 IP, 1 strikeout
Clayton Kershaw makes his penultimate start of the regular season on Saturday, with an earlier evening start (5:10 p.m., SportsNet LA). Zac Gallen will be on the mound for Arizona.