LOS ANGELES (AP) — Tony Gonsolin struck out Paul Goldschmidt and left the Dodger Stadium mound to a raucous standing ovation after his sixth scoreless inning.
Although the rookie right-hander couldn’t have pitched much better in his second career start, Gonsolin knows he might have to do even more just to have a shot at sticking with Los Angeles for its playoff run.
The Dodgers are that loaded with talent as they steamroll toward October.
“This is a pleasant problem,” manager Dave Roberts said with a grin.
Cody Bellinger hit a three-run homer and Gonsolin pitched six stellar innings of two-hit ball to earn his first major league victory in the Dodgers’ 8-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday night.
Corey Seager, Justin Turner and rookie Matt Beaty had RBI doubles, and Joc Pederson also homered in the NL-leading Dodgers’ sixth win in seven games. Los Angeles became the majors’ first team to 75 victories with another big offensive game to back another pitching prospect who looks ready for the majors.
Three days after redheaded rookie Dustin May’s promising big league debut, Gonsolin (1-1) was even better.
The 25-year-old from Northern California retired 14 of the Cardinals’ first 15 batters and took a no-hitter into the fifth inning, yielding one walk and striking out seven.
“I’ve learned to trust my stuff and learned that I can compete here, whether it’s starting or out of the ‘pen,” said Gonsolin, who earned a gutsy four-inning save at Colorado six days earlier. “That’s the goal, to get that conversation going and get my name in the mix for staying here, hopefully.”
Gonsolin allowed only a second-inning walk before Kolten Wong’s two-out double in the fifth.
“I guess ‘impressive’ is the descriptor,” Roberts said. “He was just really fun to watch. Just in complete control tonight. Getting that three-run blast by Belli early just allowed him to settle into the game.”
Gonsolin was a ninth-round draft pick who got this opportunity with three strong years in the minors. He made the most of a chance to fill the rotation spot temporarily vacated by injured major league ERA leader Hyun-Jin Ryu — and he knows the Dodgers might not have another start for him anytime soon, depending on various players’ comebacks from injury.
“Whatever it takes,” Gonsolin said. “I’m just trying to get whatever role I can.”
The Dodgers know they’ll have some tough choices to make after what’s essentially a two-month audition for spots on their postseason staff. Los Angeles (75-40) has an 8 ½-game lead over Atlanta atop the overall NL standings and a whopping 18-game lead over San Francisco and Arizona on the path to its seventh straight NL West title.
Michael Wacha (6-5) couldn’t get out of the fourth inning for the Cardinals, who dropped to 0-3 on their five-game California road trip. St. Louis matched its season low with two hits while getting shut out for the second time in five games and the ninth time this season.
“(The Dodgers) grind you down and keep fouling off tough pitches and take the ones that are close,” Wacha said. “We tried to get them to swing at those ones on the corner, those ones just off, and a well-disciplined team doesn’t do that.”
Gonsolin worked with a big early lead thanks to Bellinger, who put his shot deep down the right field line in the first inning. The slugger has three homers in his last four starts following a 12-game homerless drought.
Seager drove in his first run in eight games with a two-out double that bounced into the left field stands in the third. Pederson then added his 24th homer in the fourth, moving just two shy of his career-high.
“Pederson put a swing on (Wacha), and Bellinger’s three-run homer snuck inside the foul pole, it looked like,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “Listen, he made a lot of quality pitches and got hurt on the ones that maybe were over the middle.”
Wacha yielded seven hits and six runs in his first loss since June.
Bellinger’s 37th homer pulled him even in the Los Angeles metroplex homer race with Mike Trout, who also hit his 37th for the Angels in Cincinnati. Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich, an LA-area native himself, kept the major league lead with his 38th and 39th homers in Pittsburgh earlier Monday.
Cardinals: LF Tyler O’Neill is getting treatment on his strained left wrist in St. Louis. He is expected to get a rehab assignment before he returns to the lineup.
Dodgers: OF Alex Verdugo wasn’t in the starting lineup as planned after he felt lower back tightness. He missed last Thursday’s game with the same problem. … OF A.J. Pollock wasn’t in the starting lineup for the third time in four games due to a groin injury.
Clayton Kershaw (10-2, 2.85 ERA) has 118 strikeouts in 111 1/3 career innings against the Cardinals. St. Louis counters with Miles Mikolas (7-11, 4.00 ERA), who hasn’t pitched at Dodger Stadium since 2012.