Gavin Stone provides more quality innings for Dodgers in series win over Rockies

Dodgers pitcher Gavin Stone delivers a pitch against the Rockies.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Tyler Glasnow have the biggest names and paychecks in the current Dodgers’ rotation, and rightfully so. Yamamoto, signed to a 12-year, $325-million deal, is 6-2 with a 3.32 ERA, and Glasnow, signed to a five-year, $136.5-million deal, is 6-3 with a 3.04 ERA, both in 12 starts.

But an unheralded 25-year-old right-hander whose $742,500 salary is just a shade over the major league minimum has been every bit as good as the team’s more renowned stars, Gavin Stone emerging as a rotation mainstay after failing to establish a footprint in the big leagues in four wobbly stints as a rookie in 2023.

Pitching on regular four days’ rest for only the second time this season, Stone gave up four hits over five scoreless innings with six strikeouts and two walks to lead the Dodgers to a 4-0 victory over the Colorado Rockies in front of a Sunday afternoon crowd of 48,251 at Dodger Stadium.

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Eleven starts into his sophomore season, Stone is 6-2 with a 2.90 ERA.

“You know, it’s fun to watch him grow and mature,” manager Dave Roberts said. “His poise, his commanding of the baseball, the way he kind of attacks hitters and acquires strike one … he’s just built that trust with everyone that when he takes the mound, you expect to win.”

Stone, a fifth-round pick out of the University of Central Arkansas in 2020, was a little shaky in his first four starts of the season, going 1-1 with a 6.00 ERA, but he has been dominant in seven starts since April 26, going 5-1 with a 1.64 ERA, giving up 33 hits, striking out 31 and walking nine in 44 innings.

He did not allow a Rockies runner to reach second base Sunday until the fifth inning, when Jacob Stallings led off with a single and, after a pair of fielder’s-choice grounders, Charlie Blackmon doubled down the first-base line to put runners on second and third with two outs.

But Stone got Ezequiel Tovar, who had three hits in each of the first two games of the series, to line out to first baseman Freddie Freeman, who was positioned perfectly in the hole, to end the inning and preserve a 3-0 lead.

Dodgers shortstop Mookie Betts leaps over Colorado's Hunter Goodman after throwing to first base in the first inning Sunday.Dodgers shortstop Mookie Betts leaps over Colorado's Hunter Goodman after throwing to first base in the first inning Sunday.

With a six-pitch mix headed by a 94.4-mph four-seam fastball, 88.5-mph slider, 94.9-mph sinker and 86.8-mph changeup, Stone induced 15 swinging strikes among his 75 pitches, and he threw first-pitch strikes to 15 of 20 batters.

Right-hander Michael Grove replaced Stone to start the sixth and threw two hitless innings, striking out two and walking one, and left-hander Alex Vesia retired the side in order with two strikeouts in the eighth.

Daniel Hudson threw a scoreless ninth, the game ending with third baseman Kiké Hernández teaming with second baseman Miguel Rojas to turn a slick game-ending double play on Kris Bryant’s grounder.

Mookie Betts, hitless with two strikeouts in nine at-bats in the first two games of the series, opened the bottom of the first with a 354-foot fly ball that carried over the short wall in left field for his ninth home run of the season and first in 50 at-bats dating to May 17.

The 52nd leadoff homer of his career moved Betts to within one of Craig Biggio for fourth place on baseball’s all-time leadoff homer list, which is topped by Rickey Henderson (81), George Springer (57), Alfonso Soriano (54) and Biggio (53).

Freddie Freeman, right, is congratulated by third base coach Dino Ebel after hitting a solo home run.Freddie Freeman, right, is congratulated by third base coach Dino Ebel after hitting a solo home run.

Freddie Freeman, right, is congratulated by third base coach Dino Ebel after hitting a solo home run in the first inning against Colorado on Sunday. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Two batters later, Freeman pushed the Dodgers lead to 2-0 when he drove his seventh homer of the season just high enough over the center-field wall to clear the glove of Rockies outfielder Brenton Doyle, who timed his leap perfectly and actually got the tip of his glove on the ball a few feet above the fence.

Doyle fell on his back on the warning track, and Freeman slowed around second base, unsure if Doyle had made a spectacular catch, before second-base umpire Larry Vanover circled his index finger to indicate home run.

The Dodgers weren’t done in the first inning, Andy Pages hitting a two-out single to right-center field and Rojas walking to put two on. Hernández flied to right to end the inning, but the Dodgers forced Rockies starter Austin Gomber to throw 32 pitches in the inning, which led to his exit after three.

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Freeman sparked a third-inning rally with a leadoff walk and a stolen base. Teoscar Hernández struck out, but Pages walked, and Rojas lined an RBI single to left-center field for a 3-0 lead.

Pages took third on Rojas’ hit, but the inning fizzled when Kiké Hernández flied to shallow center, Pages unable to tag and score on the out, and Miguel Vargas popped out to shortstop.

The Dodgers tacked on a big insurance run in the eighth, an inning that Jason Heyward and Austin Barnes began with singles. Betts popped out to first baseman Kris Bryant, who made a nice catch while crashing into the screen in foul territory.

Heyward and Barnes alertly tagged up and advanced on the play, allowing Heyward to score on Freeman’s sacrifice fly to center for a 4-0 lead.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.