Dodgers get back to the basics in shutout win over Cardinals

After a week of short outings from their starting pitchers, heavy innings being shouldered by their bullpen, and roller-coaster games featuring wild momentum swings from their offense, the Dodgers finally followed a more straightforward blueprint Friday night.

They got a scoreless five-inning effort from Tony Gonsolin, the first Dodgers starter to pitch past the fourth inning since his previous outing Sunday.

They got a couple of key plays from the defense, highlighted by a sixth inning in which James Outman robbed a home run and the infield turned a crucial double play.

And they got timely hitting from their lineup, which used Mookie Betts’ three-run homer in the eighth to pull away for a 5-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.

“Super important [win],” Outman said after the Dodgers’ fourth shutout of the season. “Our pitching staff did really well tonight.”

It wasn’t a perfect performance from a Dodgers team that has endured an imperfect week.

Gonsolin wasn’t very efficient, throwing 30 pitches in the first inning and walking three batters on the night.

The offense wasted early opportunities, starting the night one for nine with runners in scoring position before Chris Taylor finally broke a scoreless tie with an RBI double in the fifth.

Then the heart of the Cardinals’ order threatened to erase the 1-0 lead against Brusdar Graterol in the sixth.

Paul Goldschmidt hammered a fly ball to center field that Outman snagged at the wall, his robbery of a potential tying home run only becoming clear to the Dodgers’ dugout once the rookie center fielder stood up, wiped off his pants and — after a few suspenseful seconds — finally fired the ball back to the infield.

“I just timed the jump correctly,” Outman said, having adjusted from a missed robbery attempt at the wall the night before. “Last night, I felt I was there a little early and then got stuck. So I just wanted to make sure I jumped early enough to give myself space.”

Dodgers center fielder James Outman catches a sixth-inning fly ball hit by the Cardinals' Paul Goldschmidt on May 19, 2023.

Dodgers center fielder James Outman leaps to catch a sixth-inning fly ball hit by the Cardinals’ Paul Goldschmidt, robbing him of a home run.

(Jeff Roberson / Associated Press)

A couple of batters later, Nolan Arenado seemed to hit a double on a line drive down the line — only for the ball to be ruled inches foul, setting up a double-play off the bat of the All-Star third baseman on the very next pitch.

Having survived that series of close calls, the Dodgers (29-17) finally broke free in the eighth inning.

Betts struck the Cardinals (19-27) with a backbreaking three-run home run to left, his 10th of the season and sixth in May.

Freddie Freeman and Will Smith added another insurance run moments later, with Freeman lining his second double of the night to right before scoring on an RBI single from the catcher.

“When you play a long season, there’s gonna be many ups and downs and many unconventional games and whatnot,” Betts said, after a series of wacky results for the Dodgers this week (including a 12-inning win Monday and 16-8 loss in Thursday’s series opener). “You just gotta play on.”

Gonsolin’s performance provided the biggest breath of fresh air.

After the Dodgers got just 12 total innings from their starters the previous four days — compared with the 26 innings their bullpen took down during that stretch — Gonsolin managed to provide a little extra length Friday.

Dodgers starting pitcher Tony Gonsolin delivers during the first inning May 19, 2023.

Tony Gonsolin pitched five scoreless innings in a boost for the Dodgers’ starters.

(Jeff Roberson / Associated Press)

Following his laborious opening frame, in which he stranded runners at the corners, the right-hander worked around a couple of free passes in the second and third innings before finishing his night with eight straight outs.

Through five starts this season, the 2022 All-Star has a 1.13 ERA in 24 innings.

“I think he just did a really good job of competing,” manager Dave Roberts said. “Using what he had tonight to limit runs.”

Despite the heavy recent workload from Dodgers relievers overall, the team was able to turn to its top complement of leverage arms down the stretch too.

Once Graterol escaped the sixth, Shelby Miller fired a scoreless seventh inning. Then, following the team’s four-run rally in the top of the eighth, Caleb Ferguson blanked the middle of the Cardinals’ order in the bottom half of the frame — all but securing a textbook win in the wake of the Dodgers’ hectic week.

“I just think we did a good job of making pitches when we needed to,” Roberts said. “Quite the tale of two different nights.”