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Mookie Betts, Tony Gonsolin give Dodgers breathing room in win over Cardinals

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at St. Louis Cardinals Joe Puetz-USA TODAY Sports

The Dodgers avoided the chaos of the last week, but still had a stressful affair on Friday night at Busch Stadium. But then Mookie Betts allowed them to exhale, hitting a three-run home run in the eighth inning in a 5-0 win over the Cardinals in the second game of a four-game series.

Miguel Vargas singled to start the eighth, and with two outs David Peralta walked as a pinch-hitter. This was not new for the Dodgers, who had runners on in seven of the first eight innings.

Betts hit the first pitch he saw from Chris Stratton, widening LA’s lead to 4-0.

Betts’ homer wasn’t the Dodgers’ only sigh of relief on Friday.

After needing 26 innings from its bullpen over the previous four days, cycling through fresh arms by the bushel, the Dodgers desperately needed some semblance of length from starter Tony Gonsolin on Friday.

“I like to say, go as hard as you can for as long as you can,” Dave Roberts told reporters in St. Louis before the game, per SportsNet LA.

It didn’t look all that promising after a 30-pitch first inning, but Gonsolin not only got through five innings but also kept the Cardinals off the board. He allowed a single and three walks, but also struck out three. He needed 94 pitches to do so, but five innings seemed like a dozen after this week. Before Gonsolin, the last Dodgers pitcher to pitch five innings was also Gonsolin, five days ago.

They’ll take it.

Gonsolin left with the lead thanks in large part to the only thing more rare than a Dodgers starter pitching deep this week. Nolan Arenado made a throwing error in the fifth inning, allowing Mookie Betts to reach base, and he scored the only run against Cardinals left-hander Steven Matz.

All six of Matz’s strikeouts came with runners in scoring position, partly because the Dodgers put runners in scoring position in all five of his innings. Two of those strikeouts were by Chris Taylor with two outs, ending both the first and third innings. But with runners on the corners and two outs in the fifth, Taylor doubled home Mookie Betts for the first run of the game, ending Matz’s night.

Unlike the scoring bacchanal in Thursday’s series opener, runs were at a premium for most of Friday, with every big play gaining more importance. Like when Paul Goldschmidt nearly tied the game in the sixth with a drive to centerfield off Brusdar Graterol, only to have James Outman rob a home run.

Extra effort

One night after hitting his 300th career home run and a triple, Freddie Freeman doubled twice — once in the first inning and again in the eighth, scoring on a single by Will Smith after his second two-bagger.

Freeman leads the National League with 25 extra-base hits, including 15 in 17 games during May. Last year, Freeman had 17 extra-base hits in both May and July. His career high for a single month is 20 extra-base hits, done twice with Atlanta — June 2019 (10 doubles, nine home runs, one triple) and September 2020 (12 doubles, eight home runs).

Freeman’s 16 doubles this season lead the NL.

When it doesn’t rain, it doesn’t pour

Trayce Thompson started against the left-handed Matz, but struck out in both at-bats against him. In the sixth, against right-hander Andre Pallante, Thompson drove a ball to right center field that was tracked down by Lars Nootbar.

Nootbaar’s catch extended Thompson’s skid to 37 at-bats without a hit, dating back to April 17. That’s tied with Eugenio Velez (2011) and Yasmani Grandal (2015) as the longest hitless streak by a Dodgers non-pitcher in the 2000s.

Thompson’s 103.3-mph drove had a .610 expected batting average, per Statcast, his third-highest xBA on a batted ball during the hitless streak.

Friday particulars

Home run: Mookie Betts (10)

WP — Tony Gonsolin (2-1): 5 IP, 1 hit, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts

LP — Steven Matz (0-5): 4⅔ IP, 6 hits, 1 unearned run, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts

Up next

The Dodgers and Cardinals switch over to national television on Saturday evening (4:15 p.m. PT, Fox), with Noah Syndergaard on the mound against right-hander Miles Mikolas for St. Louis.