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Dodgers pitching isn’t good enough to win a series against a bad Royals team

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Kansas City Royals Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Starting rotation woes continued for the Dodgers, with Tony Gonsolin looking nothing like the pitcher who made his first All-Star Game last season. On Sunday, he couldn’t make it through four innings as the lowly Royals captured their fourth series win of the season, beating Los Angeles 9-1 on Sunday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium.

Kansas City is on pace for 114 losses this season, but only one of them came this weekend. Three of the four Royals series wins have come against the National League West, taking two of three from the Giants, Padres, and Dodgers.

In a 1-1 game in the fourth inning, Gonsolin walked Drew Waters to open the frame, then drew ire from home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt for gesturing demonstratively before the next batter. Gonsolin crumbled after the walk, allowing two singles and a double to his next four batters with a sacrifice fly mixed in, scoring three runs.

Gonsolin was pulled with two outs in the fourth inning, having allowed four runs with 11 of his 21 batters faced reaching base. He was on six days of rest on Sunday, the fourth time in his last five starts he’s had that much time between starts. Yet his ERA during that stretch, dating back to the beginning of June, is 6.39.

The Dodgers were hopeful the return of Julio Urías from the injured list would provide some stability to its fragile rotation, which ends the week with a 4.50 ERA that ranks 19th in the majors. Urías may very well still revert to his expected form, but he allowed five runs in three innings on Saturday, followed by Gonsolin recording only 11 outs while allowing four runs on Sunday. On Monday, the team hasn’t yet decided (or announced) whether Clayton Kershaw will start or be placed on the injured list with left shoulder inflammation.

Having starting pitchers unable to complete the fourth inning is hell on a bullpen, even with the silver lining of only needing to pitch eight innings while losing on the road. After Phil Bickford and Ryan Brasier each pitched two innings in relief on Saturday, Victor González on Sunday threw a career-high 37 pitches while recording four outs to get through the fifth inning after relieving Gonsolin. González’s pitch total was so high because he gave up four hits and three runs, as Kansas City blew the game open.

Yency Almonte, pitching for the third time in four days, allowed two unearned runs and needed 28 pitches to get through the sixth.

Down 9-1, infielder Yonny Hernández pitched the eighth inning, getting a scoreless inning in his first-ever time on the mound. He’s the 31st pitcher used by the Dodgers this season, tied for second-most in franchise history.

The five days off provided the Dodgers during the All-Star break is very much needed for the pitching staff. But they’ve still got six more games to get through first.

Betting on versatility

Mookie Betts started at second base on Friday in Kansas City, then at in his usual spot in right field on Saturday, but on Sunday was at shortstop, the same order of starts he had earlier in the week in Denver.

No matter where he’s positioned on the field, Betts is making plays.

Like in the third inning when Freddy Fermin hit a 100.1-mph grounder that Betts quickly moved to his left, stabbed the ball, twirled and threw all in one motion. A phenomenal play for shortstop, let alone someone playing their 84th major league inning at the position.

Sunday particulars

Home runs: none

WP — Brady Singer (5-7): 7 IP, 4 hits, 1 run, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts

LP — Tony Gonsolin (4-3): 3⅔ IP, 6 hits, 4 runs, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts

Up next

The Dodgers return home to host the Pirates for four games beginning Monday night at Dodger Stadium (7:10 p.m., SportsNet LA). It could be Kershaw on the mound, or he could land on the injured list with shoulder inflammation and Michael Grove might start. Or they might just push Kershaw back a few days without an IL stint, and use someone else (Gavin Stone?) to pitch on Monday.

We’ll find out tomorrow. Mitch Keller starts for the Pirates.