Irvin in LA:
Start No. 5 for Nationals’ rookie Jake Irvin was a less-than-stellar, four-inning, 76-pitch outing in which the 26-year-old was in and out of trouble, giving up two hits, one a home run, four walks, and two runs total, both earned.
His defense helped him out of trouble, but Irvin’s high pitch count and all the high-leverage at-bats led his manager to lift him after just four innings.
“Our defense saved him,” Davey Martinez told reporters. “We turned a big double play for him, bases loaded, but four innings, 76 pitches, we got to get him in the strike zone. He’s got to be more consistent throwing strikes.
“Guys got a bat for a reason, but let your defense play, as he did, we turned a double play for him, but the walks are going to get you, so we got to get him back in the strike zone.”
“For me,” Irvin said, as quoted by MASN’s Bobby Blanco, “I have to stop trying to be so fine. Make pitches, make guys prove it. Put the ball over the plate and let them do their thing.”
His fielders could not do anything about Jason Heyward’s long fly to center, which led off the second, but the solo home run was all Irvin gave up through two innings, 1-0 Dodgers.
It was 1-1 in the third, when Mookie Betts singled, then Freddie Freeman hit a catchable fly to right field, where Joey Meneses, getting his first start in right field this season, stepped back first, and then couldn’t recover to make the catch. An RBI ground-rule double by Max Muncy on a high changeup followed, 2-1, J.D. Martinez hit a sac fly, 3-1. Heyward singled to right to put LA up by three runs, 4-1.
Irvin returned to the mound for a 1-2-3 fourth, and he worked around a single and his only walk of the game in the fifth, before he was done for the night...
Jake Irvin’s Line: 5.0 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 3 Ks, 1 HR, 94 P, 61 S, 3/5 GO/FO.
“I thought Irvin did a much better job today, only one walk, so that was very encouraging,” Martinez said after what ended up a 9-3 loss in LA.
“He threw the ball down, had a downward plane, the direction was great,” the manager added.
What went wrong in the third?
“Just the ball got up a little bit,” Martinez said, “... but for the most part it was encouraging to watch him get through it, and come back out the next inning and the next two innings and pitch really well. For me that was a learning moment, so hopefully he takes that into his next start.”
Dodgers’ righty Tony Gonsolin went unbeaten in his first 17 starts last season, going (11-0) with a 2.02 ERA, 3.39 FIP, 24 walks, 86 Ks, and a .168/.230/.308 line against in 93 2⁄3 IP. He suffered his first loss, however, in a July 25th outing against the Nationals.
The 29-year-old starter held the Nats hitless through four innings in the start in LA’s Dodger Stadium, but gave up five hits, a walk, and four earned runs in the fifth in what ended up a 4-1 loss, Gonsolin’s only L in 24 starts overall last year (16-1, 2.14 ERA, 3.28 FIP, .173/.237/.299 line against in 130 1⁄3 IP).
A reporter noted after the game how Gonsolin had been having a terrific season up to that point.
“You know what? He still is terrific,” Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez said. “I mean, he’s got good stuff, he really does. He mixes all his pitches in, he works quick.
“Today... we got an opportunity to score some runs off him, we came through.”
The right-hander gave up a bases-loaded, RBI single by Joey Meneses in the third, but did manage to limit the damage, with Dominic Smith lining out to right and Corey Dickerson’s fly to center ending the threat after the visitors tied it up, 1-1.
It was 4-1 in the Dodgers’ favor when Gonsolin came out in the fourth and he retired the final nine batters he faced in a 70-pitch, 44-strike, six-inning outing...
• Ildemaro Vargas and Lane Thomas hit back-to-back singles off Gonsolin in the top of the third, and after Jeimer Candelario walked with one out, loading the bases, Joey Meneses’s RBI single tied things up at 1-1. Gonsolin held it there though, retiring the next two batters and escaping the early-game jam.
• Going into last night’s game, Lane Thomas reached base safely, “... in a career-high 25 straight games and [had] hit safely in a career-high 14 straight games,” as the Nationals highlighted in their pregame notes.
Thomas extended the on-base streak to 26-straight with a leadoff walk in the first inning, then extended his hit streak to 15 with the single noted above.
• Keibert Ruiz hit his first home run from the right side of the plate in the top of the seventh, taking reliever Alex Vesia deep to left, over the short wall in Dodger Stadium for his 5th shot of the season, making it 4-2, and Thomas doubled to left and scored on an RBI hit by Luis García, 4-3, before Evan Phillips took over on the mound for LA and stranded two runners to keep the home team ahead.
Andrés Machado retired the Dodgers in order in the bottom of the sixth, but struggled in the home-half of the seventh, giving up a two-run home run by J.D. Martinez, 6-3 LA, and then in the eighth, a hit-by-pitch, throwing error, and wild pitch resulted in the seventh run of the game scoring, 7-3, and a run scored on a double play, 8-3, before a Freddie Freeman home run made it a six-run lead, 9-3.
Freddie Freeman is on another planet. pic.twitter.com/N70vu8gBMH— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) May 31, 2023
BACK PAGE - Outfield Adjustment:
Joey Meneses got his first start in the outfield, playing right, Lane Thomas, who usually is in right field, moved to center, and Ildemaro Vargas got another start (his 4th) in left field. The decision to shift things around, Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez explained before the 2nd game of three in LA this week, was more about getting Alex Call a night off after 21-straight starts in center since Victor Robles landed on the IL.
“For me, it’s about giving Alex Call a day, let him recoup a little bit,” Martinez explained in his pregame meeting with reporters in LA. “Get him out, get him some extra hitting. And then I told him, ‘Make sure you’re ready to come in and play defense, or whatever we need you for.’”
In those 21 games, Call has put up a .197/.282/.276 line, going 17 for 76 since he started to play center every day in Robles’s absence.
“I brought Alex Call to hit early today,” Martinez explained.
“I wanted to give [Call] a day to kind of just thinking about it, work on his hitting a little bit.
“The other thing, with Corey Dickerson coming back after a long time with his calf, is not running him out there every day right now, but giving him a chance to DH today as well, and getting Joey on the field too a little bit. I wanted another left-handed bat against Gonsolin today, and Vargas has played left field before, so he gets an opportunity to play left field today.”
Martinez said he also hoped getting Meneses in the field, instead of DHing for a night might help keep him engaged.
“I hope so. He’s been swinging the bat really well, so ... we give him a chance to run around.
“I know he’s excited about it. He went out there and took some fly balls out there yesterday and he does it periodically, but hopefully this gets him in there, gets him moving around a little bit, and like I said, he knocks in some big runs for us.”
Unfortunately, Meneses, as noted above, misplayed the Freddie Freeman drive to right field in the third, and three of the Dodgers’ nine runs on the night game later in the inning.
“Freddie hit it and the ball hooked on him pretty good,” Martinez explained after the 9-3 loss in LA. “I mean, when he first hit it. [Meneses] thought the ball was gonna go over his head, and it just hooked and died in front of him. But other than that, he made some pretty good plays. I thought he threw the ball really well to second base, too, after that. But it’s his first time out there, and I thought he carried himself really well.”