Gavin Stone delivers five innings of perfection in Dodgers' win over Padres


LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 13: Pitcher Gavin Stone #71 of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Dodgers and San Diego Padres weathered a 2-hour, 15-minute rain delay before beginning Saturday night’s game in Chavez Ravine under drizzly skies, 48-degree temperatures and just enough of a breeze to further chill the bones, hardly ideal conditions for a baseball game.

They were nearly perfect for Gavin Stone, the right-hander who painted a five-inning masterpiece on the soggy canvas before settling for the best start of his brief career, a 6 ⅔-inning, two-run, five-hit effort that led the Dodgers to a 5-2 victory in front of a crowd of 44,582 at Dodger Stadium.

Stone, a 25-year-old who was making his seventh career big league start and 11th appearance, struck out four, walked one and threw first-pitch strikes to 18 of 25 batters. Of his 88 pitches, 60 were strikes.

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He used his five-pitch mix — a sinker that averaged 95.3 mph, changeup (86.6 mph), four-seamer (94.5 mph), cut-fastball (91.7 mph) and curve (83.5 mph) — to induce 11 swinging strikes and 12 called strikes.

“This is what can happen when you pitch with conviction,” manager Dave Roberts said. “He was on the attack from pitch one, flooding the zone, making those guys uncomfortable and using his entire pitch mix … and we needed it. We needed length. We needed to put up zeros, and he was fantastic all night.”

Stone’s bid for a perfect game ended with a leadoff walk to Tyler Wade in the sixth. Eguy Rosario grounded into a 5-4-3 double play, but No. 9 hitter Kyle Higashioka ended Stone’s no-hit bid with a clean ground-ball single to left field.

Jackson Merrill, the 20-year-old rookie who was bumped up to the leadoff spot Saturday, singled to right, advancing Higashioka to third, and Fernando Tatis Jr. lofted an RBI double to left-center to tie the score 1-1.

The Dodgers managed only one run and three hits in five innings off knuckleball-throwing Padres starter Matt Waldron, Mookie Betts giving the Dodgers a 1-0 lead with a two-out RBI single to left field in the fourth.

Dodgers and Padres players meet at home plate after the benches cleared during the fifth inning Saturday night.

But the Dodgers pounded left-hander Tom Cosgrove for three runs and three hits in the bottom of the sixth, a rally that started with Max Muncy getting hit by a pitch. Kiké Hernández slapped a one-out single to right, and Gavin Lux grounded an RBI single off the glove of Wade at second base for a 2-1 Dodgers lead.

Betts lined an RBI single to right to make it 3-1, and Shohei Ohtani lofted a sacrifice fly to center off Adrian Morejon to make it 4-1.

Stone gave up another run in the seventh when Ha-Seong Kim doubled and scored on Wade’s RBI single to pull the Padres to within 4-2. But the Dodgers got that run back in the bottom of the seventh when Teoscar Hernández singled to right, took third on Tatis’ two-base throwing error and scored on Muncy’s sacrifice fly for a 5-2 lead.

Dodgers reliever Daniel Hudson struck out the side in the eighth, and closer Evan Phillips gave up two hits in a scoreless ninth for his fifth save.

Dodgers shortstop Mookie Betts connects for a single against the Padres in the third inning Saturday.

Dodgers shortstop Mookie Betts connects for a single against the Padres in the third inning Saturday. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

The closest the Padres came to a hit in the first five innings was Wade’s soft line drive that Betts, the Dodgers shortstop, made a backhand diving catch of for the first out of the third.

“First-pitch strikes were absolutely a key for Gavin,” Roberts said. “Those guys are aggressive early in the count, and for him to be able to use both sides of the plate, strike his changeup, and then steal some strikes with the curveball … getting ahead in the count and then being able to dictate counts is huge.”

The game took a strange turn in the top of the fifth after Stone struck out Manny Machado with an 86-mph changeup for the first out.

Jurickson Profar attempted a drag bunt before pulling his bat back and taking the first pitch for a ball. Stone’s next pitch, a 92-mph cut-fastball, was up and in and nearly hit Profar, who exchanged words with Dodgers catcher Will Smith.

Both benches and bullpens emptied, with players converging at home plate, but no punches were thrown. Stone got Profar to fly out to center field and Kim to fly out to right, keeping his perfect game intact.

“I don’t know what happened,” Smith said of the Profar at-bat. “He took offense to a cutter inside. He was staring at Stoney, and I felt like I needed to say something and stand up for Stoney. I thought the whole thing was silly, stupid, whatever you want to call it. I don’t really know why [he’d think] we were trying to hit him there. It was weird.”

Did Profar think the Dodgers were throwing at him because he squared to bunt on the first pitch?

“For a moment, I thought so,” the Padres left fielder said. “But he was throwing a perfect game, so he wouldn’t do that.”

Smith was impressed with the fact that Stone remained unfazed by the fracas.

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“It didn’t get him rattled at all,” Smith said. “He remained calm. He was in a good headspace today. He was just out there competing and executing pitches.”

Stone credited Smith for guiding him throughout the game.

“I feel like me and Will were on the same page pretty much all night,” Stone said. “I was just attacking, pounding the zone with all of my pitches and trying to be as confident as I can. … I feel like every pitcher has to pitch with conviction. If you don’t, then you’re not going to be as sharp.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.



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