Gavin Stone pitches a shutout as Dodgers sweep the White Sox

Gavin Stone found himself in uncharted territory Wednesday night, on the mound in the eighth inning of a game for the first time in 19 big-league starts. But as the Dodgers right-hander completed another one-two-three inning, there was no one warming up in the team’s right-field bullpen.

This game belonged to Stone, and the 25-year-old from Lake City, Ark., sealed the deal, throwing his first major league shutout to lead the Dodgers to a 4-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox before a sellout crowd of 36,225 in Guaranteed Rate Field.

Stone blanked the White Sox on four hits, striking out seven and walking none, to improve to 9-2 with a 2.73 ERA in 15 starts on the season. He needed only 103 pitches, 73 of them strikes, to throw the Dodgers’ first shutout since Walker Buehler blanked the Arizona Diamondbacks on April 25, 2022.

Shohei Ohtani hit his National League-leading 25th home run in the first inning, Freddie Freeman keyed a three-run third with a two-run double, and Miguel Rojas doubled in the fourth and bunted for single in the seventh, improving the Dodgers’ record to 24-0 in games in which the veteran infielder gets a hit.

It marked the fifth time in his last 11 starts that Stone pitched at least seven innings, giving the Dodgers much-needed length after six relievers combined to throw seven shutout innings in Tuesday night’s 4-3 win over the White Sox.

“When he takes the mound, you feel like he can go six or seven innings–that’s refreshing for me, especially when you look at where our bullpen is at,” manager Dave Roberts said before the game. “He’s sneakily been a guy that I’ve counted on, and has really performed. All the credit goes to him and the pitching coaches.”

Stone bounced between triple-A and the big leagues in 2023, going 1-1 with a 9.00 ERA in eight games–four of them starts–for the Dodgers, but the 25-year-old has been one of the team’s top two starters along with Tyler Glasnow this season.

Roberts likes to cite the three C’s when describing the difference between Stone’s shaky major league debut season and his dominant 2024: confidence, consistency and conviction.

“The biggest [thing] is he can throw a strike when he needs to, whether it’s strike one, whether it’s 2-and-0 to get back into the count, whatever the situation, he can throw a strike,” Roberts said. “And what that does is it kind of gets control of an at-bat, and it minimizes damage, and he’s done all that.”

Ohtani gave the Dodgers another early lead with his second straight leadoff homer, driving a full-count cut-fastball from White Sox right-hander Erick Fedde 437 feet to right-center field. The 114-mph laser gave Ohtani an RBI in his 10th straight game, a franchise record.

The Dodgers broke the game open with three runs in the third, a rally that began with Kiké Hernández’s single to center, Austin Barnes’ infield single and Ohtani’s four-pitch walk. Teoscar Hernández hit a sacrifice fly to right field, and Freeman roped a two-run double to right to push the lead to 4-0.

Stone retired the side in order in the first, third, fourth, seventh and eighth innings. He pitched around Gavin Sheets’ leadoff double in the second, getting Andrew Vaughn to ground out to third, Paul DeJong to ground out to first and Korey Lee to fly out to left.

DeJong reached on a one-out bloop single to center in the fifth, but Stone got Lee to fly to right and dotted a 95-mph knee-high sinker on the inside corner for a called-third strike on Nicky Lopez. Lenyn Sosa singled to lead off the sixth but was wiped out on Andrew Benintendi’s double-play grounder to second.

Will Smith was supposed to start all three games in the White Sox series, which was sandwiched around off-days Sunday and Thursday, but Roberts held Smith out of Wednesday night’s lineup to give the struggling catcher extra time to work with the team’s hitting coaches on some mechanical adjustments to his swing.

Smith, who also sat out one of two games against the Angels last weekend, entered Wednesday in a two-for-34 (.059) slump, a 10-game stretch in which he had a .381 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, one homer and four RBIs.

An All-Star in 2023, Smith was batting .295 with an .867 OPS on June 12. He entered Wednesday with a .264 average and .801 OPS.

“He’s in a little funk–I just don’t think he’s swinging the bat like he’s capable of,” Roberts said. “There are some balls that are hit hard, but there’s also some pitches that I feel that when he’s right, he makes a better move [on]. He feels good, so it’s not a physical thing, and it’s not a mental thing–he’s as mentally tough as they come.

“So that leads to the mechanical part. My thought was to take today and work through some things mechanically. We have a night game, so there’s more time to do that. … It’s a long season. I don’t expect him to be great or perfect all year. This is one of those times when I just don’t feel the need to push him.”

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